Watched in January

Films

The Last Jedi

I enjoyed it! I felt some of the parts were greater than the whole, but will withhold further thoughts until the customary second viewing. That fight scene though! The sequences on the salt planet were also a highlight!

Coco

Amazing! Such an entertaining, emotional and enjoyable film! One of Pixar’s best to my mind. The film deals with some serious topics in a very mature and adult manner. Fun and adventurous. One of the most colourful and visually impressive films in ages.

Dunkirk

An intense, visceral experience. There is very little dialogue and a lot of slowly building tension. There are no real heroes or villains. No real story or characters telling us how it is. Dunkirk just unfolds in front of you without reasons or conclusions. Highly recommended.

Bright

I love the idea for this film – a fantasy setting, in modern Los Angeles. Humans, orcs, elves and fairies. I even thought I saw a centaur in the background. I am surprised the concept has not been done on film before (to my knowledge). It is a cop-buddy movie. Think “Bad Boys Meets 16 Blocks in Middle Earth LA” (but not as fun). Smith and Edgerton keep it fun and the banter is entertaining and at times hilarious. The film is quite uneven though, and in the end, does not live up to the promise of the premise.

Series

Ozark

This is a great show! I started it in December, but only finished it this month. It builds slowly, and gripped me from the start. Think “Breaking Bad via The Big Short”. The comparison to Breaking Bad doesn’t end there though. Several of the episodes have those holy-shit, that escalated really quickly moments. I enjoyed the cinematography, and the acting is solid. I cannot wait for Season 2!

Documentaries

What the Health

A difficult documentary to watch as it cuts right to the heart at the centre of daily life and culture. Food. It reveals disturbing practices in the food industry and reminds us, that we cannot trust the big, corporate household brands we take for granted. This movie makes me think that the mass-market food industry is the “big tobacco” of this age. Corruption, legal/governmental/legislative skullduggery and prioritising profits before people by any means. In many ways, these companies are worse than big tobacco because they are mistreating animals, misinforming and actively harming humans on a scale tobacco companies could only dream of. All the while pretending to be your best friend. Scary.

Incremental Amazon

While Amazon does not have the presence in South Africa that it has overseas, personally, I have felt Amazon’s presence beginning to expand in my day to day. This got me thinking of the incremental nature in which Amazon seem able to build its business. Slowly chipping away at the whole, adding to my monthly spend bit by bit.

Audible

I listen to Audible almost every day. Twice a day during the workweek to and from work and then on the weekend if I find myself driving somewhere on my own. Recently I have also started listening in between other things, like when getting ready for work, or when washing dishes and so forth. I am on the Gold monthly subscription which is $14.95 per month. I have been listening prolifically of late and have upped the speed of my listening to 1.25x. This has led me to start thinking about upgrading my subscription. We will see.

Regarding 1.25x speed – I find this speed does not distort the reading much and after a few minutes sounds just right. Switching back to 1x speed I hardly notice the difference.

IMDB

I love the IMDB app! It is on the home screen of my iPhone (as is Audible) and it sees a lot of usage. Despite this, there does not seem to be a pull into further Amazon activity like purchasing films. This is likely a barrier of delivery in that Amazon is not willing to sell via the App Store due to Apple’s 30% cut and cannot link directly into their own store. And now, due to Amazon Prime Video being bundled with Prime, I suppose the push would only result in a one time purchase regardless.

While on the topic, I have recently been dying to see links, similar to the “Cast and Crew” links for both:

  • The network that runs the show such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu etc to get a list of all the available shows.
  • The production houses behind the films to get a list of the string of films they produce.
  • Links to where to watch as I have recently struggled to find certain titles.

Goodreads

I recently started recording my reading activity in Goodreads. I really enjoying taking a look through my Audible history and seeing what I have listened to in the past. I wanted a similar experience for my reading. Now, Goodreads does not seem able to provide the same stats that Audible does, but it at least keeps a measure of progress. I imagine there will be a much tighter coupling in Goodreads between what I browse and what I might purchase in future.

  • I do wish I could log a start and end time of my reading session.
  • I do not yet see a space with stats? It would be great to see stats on daily pages, average speeds etc.

Amazon Prime Video

I am not a Prime subscriber, so to date, I have not watched any Amazon Prime Video content nor have I subscribed. However, I have installed the Apple TV app, and have browsed through it a few times. Recently, I have checked Amazon Prime Video on four separate occasions to see whether there was content available that I could not find on Netflix and iTunes. Had the films in question been available there, it is likely I would have signed up. As such, it is just a matter of time.

For the record, the three films I was looking for were:

  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Cabin in the Woods
  • Escape from New York

Amazon

Up until a few weeks ago I had never bought anything on Amazon. However, as a result of some resolutions I made, I was looking to buy some programming books. I had made an attempt at reading them online, but while I read a lot online, long form content is not something I do well with on my phone. It almost all exclusively RSS feeds, blog posts and articles. Since these books were not available in Exclusive Books or on Takealot, I figured I should try Amazon. The waiting period has been about 2-3 weeks due to international shipping, but if you plan your purchasing ahead, it works out really well. So far I have bought 3x programming books, 3x cookbooks, a non-fiction book as well as a book for my father. The ease of this process and the way the Amazon app keeps you right up to date with the detailed progress of your order has made it a really good experience. One that I am already planning on repeating soon. Now, it is only a matter of time until that Amazon Prime subscription raises its head.

To date: 1 delivery was late by about 2-3 days. The other was a week early!

Amazon Web Services

Lastly, and maybe not least, is Amazon Web Services. To date, I have never used Amazon Web Services in a development capacity. However, since using Azure at work, I have become a keen learner on the topic of cloud services for development and I imagine that, once again, it is only a matter of time until I dip my toe in the AWS waters to try it out.

Conclusion

Amazon, despite not having much of a direct presence in my life (until recently) is slowly, but surely carving out niches in my day-to-day usage as well as my month-to-month spend. No doubt this effect has been a lot more drastic for many years in markets such as the USA, UK and Europe, but it does bear thinking about. That the long, slow game, with the right products and strategy can shave off more and more of the share of wallet.

Audible Sidenote:

I love Audible, however the more I think about it, the Gold/Platinum structure of the membership levels seem positively outdated. Paying $14.95 a month for a single credit seems almost archaic in comparison to today’s Netflix-style all you can eat subscriptions. I subscribe to the Netflix Dual Screen subscription as well as the Apple Music Family Plan and both of these offer unlimited use on multiple devices. It seems to strange to have a relatively “expensive” subscription which allows you only 1 credit and (what amounts to) 1 device.

Granted, I still believe Audible is fair. Even listening as much as I do, one credit a month more or less works out perfectly. I do not find myself without credits, and more often than not, I find myself playing catch-up. The thing is, a lot of thought goes into that credit. I actually look forward to browsing, evaluating, planning and choosing my purchase this way. I tend to be calculated and measured in my selections.  Though I hate to say it, listening time definitely has a big impact on my choices. I seldom select a book under 15 hours of listening time. The reality is that, while there may be thousands of really good short books out there that I want to listen to, but with only 1 credit a month, it a waste to spend it on a short book. I think this is where, I wish Amazon had a little more play in their Audible offering since the only options are 12 or 24 titles on subscription. In the same breath, it is great that a book that is 80 hours can be had for the same amount as a book of 6 hours. But still, going short feels like missing out, and as a result, there are many quality titles that I likely will not listen to as a result. I get the feeling that had Amazon not had such a firm grip on the audiobook market, this “restrictive” approach to subscriptions may have proven to be a potential weak spot to be used as an attack mechanism. Alas, this does not seem to be the case. I have started to look around at alternatives to Audbile however, the search is early and my decisions are slow to build when it comes to purchasing.

That being said, two of those alternatives, not surprisingly are from Amazon itself. Bundled Audible as a benefit of Amazon Prime as well as the Kindle Unlimited deal which bundles Kindle books along with their Audible companions with Whispersync. Both fall short (by design I am sure) since the selections in both are so limited. Having experienced, what I find to be, quite uninspired selections in the Audible 2 for 1 sales, I have no intention of limiting my choices to either 50 rotating titles from Audible or to the large, but still limited set of audio titles available on Kindle Unlimited. (On that note, I have never used a Kindle and when I have read books on my iPhone, that has been via iBooks)

Uber and UberEats:

I have had a similar feeling when it comes to Uber. For quite some time, Uber had been slowly increasing in usage in my own life. Then when UberEats launched, my girlfriend and I started using it now and then to order in. This also got me to thinking about how companies, by satisfying jobs to be done, slowly start shaving off pocket share in other markets and from competitors. Personally, I think it is a hugely effective approach for companies with the kind of scale that makes the approach viable.

Pre-HomePod

It seems that the anticipation surrounding the soon to be released HomePod is more centred around a desire to tear it down and declare Amazon Echo or Google Home to be the winner in the expanding voice assistant category than it is for the actual anticipation of the product. Once the reviews drop, we can expect plenty of:

  • It is too expensive.
  • Siri is worse than Alexa/Assistant/Cortana.
  • I cannot do X, Y or Z on HomePod.
  • The sound isn’t as good as X, Y, Z.
  • Apple is doomed.

In the meantime, I will be looking forward to reading about (and eventually hearing) how good of speaker it is.

2 years ago I bought a JBL Charge 3 for my girlfriend. It is one of the best purchases I have ever made. It sounds good, it’s portable, the battery lasts a good while and it is even waterproof. One thing it is not, is smart or have a voice. While the JBL Charge 3 is great, I am looking for something a little more permanent to pair with the Apple TV in the lounge while the JBL Charge 3 can go in the bedroom or go with us on holiday. As far as I am concerned, any smart/voice features are all upside. The jobs to be done in my case are:

  • Music
  • Audio for video
  • Podcasts

I would not underestimate the value of a good speaker. The real test will be to see how HomePod compares to higher end speakers and audio systems. It is interesting to consider HomePod not as an over-priced, under-featured voice assistant, but rather as a low-end entrant to the high-end audio market.

 

About Those iPhone X Supply Chain Rumours

Mike Wuerthele wrote an article at AppleInsider about a KGI Securities research note regarding the iPhone X titled:

“If iPhone X demand is less than expected, analyst expects it to be ‘end of life’ when replacements ship”

The “internet” then decided that this meant the iPhone X would be cancelled due to weak sales.

My advice is to read Wuerthele’s article from bottom to top for a better understanding of what KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo is actually saying.

Here is my summary:

  • Analyst expects trio of iPhone models in 2018 with possible launch of iPhone X Plus.
  • Current iPhone X is unlikely to be retained in line-up once replaced.
  • Notch may be affecting impact in China.
  • Shipments of 18 million iPhone Xs expected in Q1.
  • No comment on holiday sales.
  • Analyst expects 10% iPhone growth in 2018.
  • Firm remains positive on the Apple and the iPhone supply chain.

Don’t believe the clickbait.

Apple 2018

In the spirit of some speculative fun, here are my guesses at what Apple may or may not do in 2018:

iPhone

It is going to be fascinating to see what Apple does with the iPhone line in 2018. 2017 introduced 3 models: iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. What happens with the traditional ‘S’ cycle upgrade since being upturned by the latest release cycle?

Generally Apple does not introduce new form factors in the ‘S’ cycle (last year being the exception) and this cycle is traditionally focused on software-based introductions and improvements. Does this mean we will see:

  • iPhone XS.
  • iPhone 8S.
  • iPhone 8S Plus.
  • iPhone SE (with iPhone 7 internals).
  • New battery case (Has anyone noticed Marty Bird’s continual use of the battery case in Ozark?)

It will be fascinating to see what Apple does in 2019 to the “old” iPhone form factor. Depending on how the iPhone 8/X sales go, might we see the “old” form factor kept as the low-cost option, or will it fall away completely? On that note, I suspect 2019 will see the release of:

  • iPhone X (What will it be called? iPhone X2?).
  • Will we see a dual-camera iPhone X?
  • iPhone X Plus.
  • Apple Pencil integration for iPhone X Plus.
  • What will happen to the notch?
    • The race to a fully-full-screen phone is on and there are big questions around how to solve for the front-facing camera and sensors in order to achieve this.

AirPods

  • New AirPods.
  • New colours.
  • Pricing of new vs old AirPods.
  • Another interesting AirPods question is when will we see “low-end” AirPods in the box with new iPhones? (Could this be on the cards as the product line matures and the components move down the cost curve making EarPods-level AirPods ‘Lite’ possible?)
  • I suspect the AirPods serve as a successful up-sell, so providing AirPods in the box might cannibalise “high-end” AirPods so we may see the form factor remain constant for a while. Maybe there is space to incorporate the AirPods price into the iPhone as iPhone price pushes upwards?
  • Do AirPods remain a single form-factor product line? Does Apple widen the product offering to include on or over-ear headphones that compete with Beats?
  • When we will see cellular connectivity in the AirPods?

iPad

  • After the raft of iPad updates in 2017, will Apple continue this story in 2018?
  • iPad with iPhone X-like bezel-less design.
  • iPad with FaceID.
  • New (smaller) Apple Pencil.
  • Improved iPad keyboards/cases.
  • What of these MacOS/iOS combination rumours?

Apple Watch

  • Always-on time (‘Finally’ becoming a ‘real’ watch.)
  • I suspect there will be one more year of the current form-factor before a thinner Apple Watch in 2019.
  • Or do we see a new form-factor this year and always-on remains a hanging fruit? (Apple must be itching to get a thinner Watch out there! Would likely be a good push on the upgrade cycle. Especially considering all those health-insurance subsidised watches out there.)
  • When (if ever) does Apple breakout Apple Watch numbers?

HomePod

  • Release within Q1?
  • And what of Siri integration?

Siri

  • Looking forward to many improvements as Siri is now under Craig Federighi (along with iOS, MacOS, TvOS and WatchOS)
  • Multi-lingual support is an area Apple can claw back on the “Amazon Echo” lead. The presence of smart speakers in non-English markets is still in the very early to non-existent stages it seems.

Mac Pro

  • Will the Mac Pro see the light of day in 2018 as announced?
  • And what about those external monitors?
  • Big questions around form factor? (To avoid thermal corners)

MacBook and MacBook Pros

  • Will we see regular spec bumps in order to avoid the very long upgrade cycles and ever-rising (but currently relatively dormant) Mac criticisms?
  • What happens to the TouchBar? (Does Apple keep it (surely?) and continue to maintain two lines of MacBook Pro?)
  • What more will we find out about the MacOS/iOS combination? ARM-based Macs? LTE Macs?
  • Increased usage of T-series processors (and other Apple silicon) across the Mac range.

The HomePod, Mac Pro and MacBook/Pro release and upgrade cycles will come under scrutiny. Apple has made announcements and commitments to these and already the HomePod is slipping. Will be keeping an eye here to see if the others slip too.

Mac App Store

  • Phil Schiller’s leadership of the App Store has resulted in great improvements to the iOS App Store. When will we see the fruits of his leadership come to the Mac App Store?

Apple TV

  • Dolby Atmos.
  • Improved remote (Likely only in 2019 with new Apple TV hardware).
  • Game controller? (Likely only paired with new hardware. If ever.)
  • Anyone other than Gene MApple TV TV.

Apple Video and Music

  • Launch of first batch of Apple streaming video series.
  • Improvement of Apple Music interface and recommendations.
  • Shazam integration.

iCloud

  • Improved iCloud free and paid tiers.
  • Streamlining of iCloud features – the iCloud authentication and password flows still seem horribly touchy and strange to me.

Project Titan

  • What happens with CarPlay?
  • More rumours… leaks? (Likely that those leaks will only start in earnest once the supply chain comes into play.)

Other areas of interest will be:

Now that the majority of the work on Apple Campus and the Apple Stores seems to be done, where will Jony Ive be exerting his focus?What will be revealed about Apples US plans in terms of campuses, hiring, cash and tax repatriation?What effect will moving to the new campus have on the employees and their work?Will Apple be able to batten down the hatches in terms of public and somewhat embarrassing bugs?Come what may, it is going to be an exciting year!

Update 23/01/2018

Apple have announced that HomePod will be available in Apple Stores in US, UK and Australia on 9 Feb. Multi-room audio, stereo pair and AirPlay2 will however only be added in future software updates.

News of Interest

Xiaomi and Huawei to Enter US Market

Mark Gurman, Yuan Gao, Scott Moritz and Selena Wang writing for Bloomberg:

“Huawei Technology Co. and Xiaomi Corp. are in talks with U.S. wireless operators about selling flagship smartphones to American consumers as soon as next year, according to people familiar with the matter. The handset makers are negotiating with carriers including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Talks are still fluid and it’s possible no agreements will materialize, they said.”

Firstly, I am surprised Huawei and Xiaomi have not entered the US market via carrier channels already.

Secondly, and this is purely in my own observation, the people I know using Huawei or Xiaomi phones are generally people who used to buy Samsung phones. The iPhone has never been the market leader by market share. Samsung has. Clearly Apple is doomed.

App Store Pre-orders

Following on the developer bad news from the banning of template generated apps from the App Store some good news! Apple has introduced pre-ordering of apps to all developers along with the option to provide discounted pricing. This will certainly be boon in terms of drumming up interest and pre-orders.

App Store Introductory Pricing (and Free Trial Periods) for Subscriptions

Apple have also added introductory pricing to auto-renewable subscriptions. This option allows the developer to offer the app for free or at a lower price for a defined amount of time. While this is not “trial period” leading to a once off purchase. It is a step in the right direction and will certainly help developers nudge would-be customers over the purchasing line.

200 – 300%

Vincent Laforet writing about his experience with the new iMac Pro:

“Whether you’re editing 8K RED video, H.264 4K Drone footage, 6K 3D VR content or 50 Megapixel RAW stills — you can expect a 200-300% increase in performance in almost every industry leading software with the iMac Pro.

I’ve seldom seen a jump this dramatic before on any new generation of Macs — 20%-30% speed increases are the norm … NOT 200%-300% increases. That’s SIGNIFICANT.”

That performance increase really does seem significant – was the jump in performance from iPhone 7 -> 8 -> X that much?

More Uber Underhandedness

Andrew J Hawkins writing for The Verge:

“At first glance, the Jacobs letter an incredibly detailed accounting of multiple unlawful actions by the ride-hail company. He alleges that Uber’s secretive Strategic Services Group (SSG) “frequently engaged in fraud and theft, and employed third-party vendors to obtain unauthorized data or information.” He also accuses Uber security officers of “hacking” and “destruction of evidence related to eavesdropping against opposition groups.” And he says Uber’s ex-CEO Travis Kalanick knew about a lot of it.”

Seems to me Uber under Kalanick invested an awful lot of time, effort and money into areas other than actually improving their service and product.

At least it seems like new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will not be putting up with any of it:

“With regard to the allegations outlined in Ric Jacobs’ letter, I can tell you that we have not been able to substantiate every one of his claims, including any related to Waymo. But I will also say that there is more than enough there to merit serious concern. As I hope you’ve seen over the past 2.5 months, I will always be fair when people admit mistakes or bring hard problems to me. But let me be clear: I have drawn a line. I will not tolerate misconduct or misbehavior that was endorsed or excused in the past. Period.”

CDC Gets List of 7 Forbidden Words

Lena H. Sun and Julia Eilperin writing for The Washington Post:

“Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.”

I have another 7 words as a suggestion for a response to this list.

Apple’s widened ban on templated apps is wiping small businesses from the App Store

Sarah Perez writing for TechCrunch:

“Many companies have recently been given a January 1, 2018 deadline, after which point any new apps they submit will be rejected by the App Store Review team, they’ve been told by Apple. In the meantime, some have been able to maintain their existing apps, but it’s unclear how long that will last. […] What’s unfortunate about the expanded policy enforcement is that these app makers specifically target the small business market. They build apps for businesses that don’t have the internal resources to build their own apps or can’t afford to hire a custom shop to design a new iOS app from scratch.”

  • Cleaning up the App Store is a good thing.
  • Apple clamping down on spammy, keyword-squatting, low quality apps is a good thing.
  • Banning apps only because they are generated by a template or app builder is not a good thing.

Firstly, the argument that this move by Apple is akin to banning websites running WordPress or Squarespace from the internet is off base. The App Store is not the internet. The App Store is Apple’s. Right of admission reserved.

The case can also be made in defence of Apple’s move that, if these app generators allow legitimate small businesses to generate apps, the same will go for spammy businesses generating spammy apps. Chances are fair that there is a side to this story not highlighted in the article and that Apple may well be responding to scenarios where these generators are being used to submit many low-quality apps to the App Store. If this is the case, the situation would improve if the companies behind the generators were to apply a more rigorous approach to enforcing standards on their customers. In the same breath however, this would likely reduce the app generator sales pitch – which is anyone can make an app, easily, quickly and cost effectively.

What does not ring true about this situation is that Apple’s focus seems to be on the implementation details. On the surface it seems that Apple may be using this as a polite way of kicking out hordes of low quality apps without saying so directly. Ultimately though, the centre of the affair should be that the banning of apps from the App Store should be about app quality and app content. That is to say, that the app should have a purpose and reason to exist beyond just being a copycat or spam. While it may irk Apple to have, for example, 50 pizza ordering apps that are more or less the same, chances are good that there are, at the same time, some unique, high quality apps that are built by generators too.

I don’t know anything about the technical merits of these bans, but as mentioned in the article, Apple’s partnership with IBM and their app generators are not included in the ban. The optics of this are poor: “Large successful company can sell template apps to large corporate customers for very high fees, but John Doe down the way may not use the same approach in a more cost effective manner”.

As is often the case, one needs to consider the sheer scale of the App Store. The volumes of app submissions are enormous and as the saying goes “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”. However, if you take a look at the Shoutem website, it certainly seems like they have created a high quality product and now, their egg is broken. Apple does not mind breaking a few eggs on balance, yet the rub is that there are real people on the other end of these businesses catering to real needs and real gaps in the market. Apple is eager to promote the successful underdog stories however it is not all roses in the App Store. This reminds developers that this is not the Internet. This is a walled garden and you are at the whim of a gatekeeper whether you like it or not.

Without being able to see more clearly how Apple judges or determines these bans it is difficult to side with Apple on the surface of it. As is often the case, more transparency and clear guidelines would alleviate the confusion. This is precisely what Congressman Ted W Lieu asks for in his letter to Apple. The concern is that Apple is “casting too wide a net” and it seems this could be true. If anything, large tech companies likely do not want to be under any further scrutiny than is necessary.

After all, quality should come before implementation. Just because your app was generated in some way, does not necessarily mean it is low quality. In the end, while we all know the App Store is not a level playing field, developers would rest easier at night knowing that if John Doe down the way cannot build apps from templates, then IBM should not be allowed to either.

About that Apple TV Set

It seems the rumour mill around the Apple TV Set has started churning again. Let’s examine this topic for a moment.

The Hockey Puck

The future of the “TV” is in the streaming of content to a hockey puck device. Whether that puck is “integrated” into the panel remains to be seen. The latest Apple TV is already coming under criticism for what is seen to be an overly inflated price for something that is done as well in considerably cheaper devices.

Generally speaking, Apple charges premium prices for its integration of hardware, software and services. While Apple TV is a good product, it is not widely considered good enough for the price tag in an area where the software is not considered a differentiating factor (yet). TVs and hockey pucks have, until recently, struggled when it came to software, and I would venture to say that most people dislike the software bundled with regular TVs and satellite/cable boxes. The challenge here is that:

  • Most people just make do with the crappy (but improving) TV interfaces they have.
  • There are not that many “killer” apps. Broadly there are only two at present: video and games. With a bit of music thrown in (however, that job is being eaten by smart speakers and soon the HomePod).

As such, delivering an easy to access streaming app, game or music player is just about all the average home viewer wants.

The differentiating factor, is the service (or the game). HBO, Netflix, Hulu or Amazon are not limited to one box, they are on all the boxes. Ditto, more or less, when it comes to streaming music. As such, the choice of box is more often than not driven by price and “good enough” with the true decision point being “Which streaming services do I sign up for?”

4K is a feature not a selling a point and will be adopted across all devices and services in time. The integration of software and the value of “how it works” is not that valuable in the living room at present. Especially if you are not deeply invested into the iTunes ecosystem.

On the mobile phone and computer, the integration of software and hardware is so critical because the use cases for the devices are so diverse. They enable so many people to do so many things that are used in so many situations. When it comes to TV, most people just want to watch TV (or YouTube), play games or listen to music (when not watching the screen). For the rest they have their phone, tablet and increasingly some form of voice computing.

The Screen

Since Apple already has a a horse in the hockey puck race, that leaves Apple with the screen. Apple makes some gorgeous displays. And as Nilay Patel convincingly lays out in his piece about the possibilities of ProMotion for a TV set. Apple can surely bring some much needed improvements to the experience. However, that argument to one side, despite the fact that Apple makes gorgeous displays and has some great software to make them even better, for some time it looked highly likely that Apple would be leaving the external monitor market. Only selling integrated devices – which a TV set would be. That was until the announcement of the Mac Pro and the poor showing of other brand monitors. As such, if there is any credence to this rumour, it is that Apple will be looking to re-enter the monitor market with a range of high-end monitors that are there to be the perfect display for your Mac Pro or possibly your Apple TV. An expensive and premium monitor for a niche market of customers willing to shell out a lot of money for Apple hardware. I suppose that the market for such high-end, specialised devices is small. The equation in many people’s minds might be that they want to strike a balance with good picture quality and price when it comes to the screen and video quality. For most people, I suspect, they may be willing to shell out a little more on the screen, but then what is left for the puck when they have to pay for all their video service and satellite/cable too?

Too Many Products

I would not go so far as to say Apple has too many balls in the air at the moment. It is just that some balls stay in the air longer. That is to say, some products do not progress and improve as quickly as others or as quickly as some customers would like. The addition of a raised, white ring on the Apple TV remote screams “we just didn’t have time/it’s not a priority at present”. There are few devices in Apple’s current stable that raise so much ire as the Apple TV Remote, yet with Apple’s skill sets would be achievable without massive investments. However, the need to field an edge to edge phone, bring the cellular Apple Watch, AirPods and a completely revamped Mac line to bear as well as a new product, the HomePod, is clearly taking priority over the TV.

My gut tells me the HomePod will follow the same path as the Apple TV. Amazon will keep iterating and expanding for all it is worth in the Home/TV area since it does not play in the mobile space at present. Google’s contributions will be more similar to Apple’s in that they will come out with a new device and vision every now and then but will not submit the necessary resources to making them must have devices.

It is all well and good to say that Apple should enter a space and save those of us frustrated by less than perfect experiences, but the reality is that product categories are not one time things. When Apple enters a market they believe they can make a difference there, but they cannot enter every market and regularly, update all those products all the time. One need only look to the frustrations around the Mac, iPad and Apple TV upgrade cycles to realize there is no magic bullet.

Apple will slowly but surely keep turning the wheel in the TV space and a hockey puck keeps their options open while they tease out the threads and see where they lead. A successful HomePod may well start to tip the scales towards Apple creating a larger presence in the living room over time. The fact is, coming out with a premium TV set, with ProMotion and perfectly mastered video will convince some, but the reality is that good enough is a strong motivator in the TV market at present. For Apple it will be a case of finding the right levers to pull in the right way to make the entry worthwhile.

So for now, I think Apple will keep chipping away at the TV. At times the change is imperceptible and frustrating but it is happening. Just not as fast as some would hope.

Thoughts on Apple acquiring Shazam

Apple Confirms Shazam Acquisition

  • I didn’t realize Shazam have been around since 1999!
  • Did Google ever kick the tires on a deal? If you take a look at YouTube comments on videos that have music, inevitably there are people asking “What song is that?” Or “Who is the artist?” Having to use another app to figure out the song and then yet another app to actually get hold of the music is too much friction.
  • As Apple says in their statement on the acquisition. This is a natural fit to Apple Music. To my mind it will widen the funnel into Apple Music and remove layers of friction in the process of recognize > discover > purchase. Integrating this into the OS/Siri layer so that it is easily and more importantly, instantly available when you need it os a good step.
  • The potential of the integration of Shazam into Apple TV is appealing! How many times have you heard a song in a movie or TV show and you wonder what it is? I can’t count how many times I hear something good on TV but then having to bring up the phone, open the app and record. Often this process takes too long and the moment passes. Built into the OS, into Siri, connected to the streaming is where this should be. It is the natural form and extension to the question of “Who is this?” when hearing a great song.
  • What happens to the existing integrations to Spotify and Snapchat?
  • I imagine the Android version will remain since Apple Music is on Android.

News to Remember (Or possibly forget)

A brief rundown of some of the (mostly tech) news over the past week or so:

Apple Root Login Bug

“Anyone can login as “root” with empty password after clicking on login button several times.”

It really does take courage to release an OS that lets you login as root user without a password.

Hopefully Apple have added a test case for this.

Another Report About Uber Allegedly Doing Shady Shit

“Uber allegedly paid hackers a $100,000 ransom to delete the data and not disclose what had happened to the media and public.”

As if Dara Khosrowshahi wanted another topping on the shit-sandwich Travis Kalanick left for him.

A suggestion for any CEO anywhere: If you fuck up, own up to it and be done with it. Someone always finds your dirty laundry, no matter where you put it.

Yahoo Must Pay Mozilla $375 million even if Mozilla doesn’t use Yahoo Search 

“According to the change-of-control term, 9.1 in the agreement, Mozilla had the right to leave the partnership if — under its sole discretion and in a certain time period — it did not deem the new partner acceptable. And if it did that, even if it struck another search deal, Yahoo was still obligated to pay out annual revenue guarantees of $375 million.”

What was Marissa Mayer thinking?

Considering Yahoo has been doing so well in 2017 2000 one could be forgiven for thinking a change-of-control scenario was not in the realm of possibility.

And if you are from Mozilla, buy the person who got this deal through a drink!

AlphaZero Beats The World Chess

“Oh, and it took AlphaZero only four hours to “learn” chess. Sorry humans, you had a good run.”

If AlphaGo/Zero is a toddler and has beaten Go and Chess. What will it achieve by the time it turns 18?

On that note: I don’t think teaching it to play StarCraft is a very good idea…

Amazon Prime Video Now Available On Apple TV

“With the addition of Prime Video, Siri can now search 1.3 million TV episodes and movies on Apple TV.”

I haven’t even finished the previous season of The Walking Dead yet…

And in local news:

Steinhoff Skeletons Emerge

“The directors are confidant that they will be able to defend these actions successfully and that the potential impact on the group will not be material.”

As it turns out the actual impact was losing R282 billion (+- $20,5 billion) in market value in a week. Some might consider that to be material.