Friday, February 27, 2015

Wearable War: It's Apple Watch Versus Others

Source:  9to5Mac.

The Swiss watchmakers are not just rolling over for the potential Apple Watch jugganaut.  In fact, Swatch among others will debut smart watches at Baselworld next month, weeks after Apple's March 9th event.  It'll be interesting to see if Apple Watch lives up to hype and whether Apple has a couple of more surprises up its sleeve.

Then the tech and watch world will have to see if the traditional watchmakers have what it takes to upstage Apple. 

Designs and features aside, there is one very important aspect with Apple and non-Apple watches:  only the Apple Watch has full integration with Apple's ecosystem and iOS devices.  Furthermore, Android watches have full integration with most Android devices but not necessarily all.  It'll be interesting to see what a Swatch smart phone will feature and how it'll work along side a smartphone market dominated by Android and iOS.

One very important thing to consider here.  The Apple Watch will compete in the mid to high end segment of the wearable tech. And with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus dominating the high-end market, it stands to reason that many of the watch makers will try to compete with Apple Watch there as well.  With Apple's closed ecosystem, will iPhone owners have uses for non-Apple Watches?

Alternatively, these high-end smart watches will end up competing for high-end Android users which Samsung, LG, and Motorola will try to integrate their watches with their phones.  So where does that really leave these traditional watchmakers?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Google, Sustainability, And Global Warming

Okay, if you ask the folks on the East Coast, they'd say what global warming.  Us folks in the West Coast are experiencing dry mild weather.  Great if you like the outdoors but bad for some if you have allergies and even worse for all if you need water to stay alive.  Which we all do.

I think it's climate change, global warming of the oceans if you will.  Why deny it?  This is why I'm so glad we have Google, flushed with billions, that will do something about it.  Slowly but sure, Google is investing billions in solar and other renewable energy sources. 

Case in point is this new $300 million contribution to Solar City's fund for residential fund of $750 million to put solar panels on 25,000 homes.  It may not sound like a lot but this is cumulative and we have to start somewhere, right?

The issue is that while we have companies like Apple investing in solar plants, they're largely for its own use.  That is good but I think Tim Cook and Apple can and should do more. 

Of course, Google does get something out of this.  My goodwill and I'm sure the goodwill of millions of Google users.  On top of that, they get a tax break as well.  (It has something to do with a business model called "yieldco" - Bloomberg.)

Personally, I've been looking into solar for my home but for various reasons, have not had much success.  Hopefully with Google involvement, I'll be able to get Solar City to work with me to get solar panels on my roof. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Telsa Pulling Back Production To Create Illusion of Too Much Demand?

Source: Yahoo Finance.

Telsa's latest woes is feeding into Bank of America's assertion that Elon Musk's luxury electric car company is trying to hide falling demands for its cars by parring back production.  Of course, when Telsa's financial shortfall last quarter was blamed by management, of all thing, on customers going on vacation so they could not receive their Model S vehicles.

So, which is it?  Consider Tesla to be the Apple of the auto industry and Musk obsessed with being synomyous with Steve Jobs, I'm willing to give Tesla the benefit out of the doubt.  Plus, Tesla has more going on than a simple bad quarter.  If demand picks right back up and those vacationing customers take reins of their Telas, the SUV Model X ships on time, and everything else runs smoothly, then all will be as it was - sky high stock prices. 

What will be interesting to watch from Tesla is the announcement of the home battery system that Elon Musk teased (GCR).  Of course, the devil is in the details.  Musk promised production in "six months or so".  It probably means twice that.  But if 12 months or less from now Tesla can ship affordable battery storage systems for the home and business markets, it could be a huge win as the Apple of the auto industry shows investors that it can move beyond making money through government subsidies and carbon credits.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Loving, Not Quit So Anymore, and Loving Android Again

I like my Android devices all the way back to the G1.  I would wager most of you reading this have no idea that the G1 was the very first Android device to go on sale in the United States (possibly the world).  Since then, I've gone through variants of the Galaxies and a couple of Nexus tablets.  Now, I'm back on the Asus Memo Pad 7 after my Nexus 7 met an unfortunate end.

I like the fresh setting up process but I had assumed that my previoius profile on the Nexus 7 was backed up.  It was but when I tried to get that downloaded onto my Memo, it didn't work. That was fine.  I still enjoyed the whole set-up, doing a fresh profile and all.

I've used it all weekend and barely touched my iPad Air unless it was to harvest my fruits and vegetables on the Smurf game, do revenges in Star Wars Commander, and send a squadron of level 4 dragons against hapless cities in my clan war in Clash of Clans. 

As I started downloading apps from the Play Store, I suddenly realized I went through similar feelings about it:  making sure that I only downloaded apps from trusted companies like Google itself, Twitter, Facebook, and Yahoo.  I was hesitant about experiment and testing out interesting apps from smaller developers because I fear the security level between that of Android and iOS just are not the same.

Honestly, I don't have the same apprehension I did with Android as on iOS.  If anything, I would like to see Google place greater controls over its app reviews and maybe put up some fences around the Android ecosystem while not quite going as far as Apple's walled garden. 

Just today, I learned that even if you're able to deny apps access to location datas, some apps can still get that information through usuage and charging of the battery.  It's quite brilliant but also scary. 

So, I hope that Google will address security issues more frequently and better communicate it with users.  Personally, I have no issues with entrusting Google with some of my information.  I just like for Google to better protect it even more.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cord-Cutting: New Trick By Cable Networks To Squeeze New Ad Revenues And Speed Up Cord-Cutting

Source:  Insider.

Apparently, cable companies and networks are not happy with how much money they're making so someone, who probably thinks he or she is pretty brilliant for coming up with this idea, decided the way to generate more money is by putting more ads into our shows.  But how are they doing that within the 30 or 60 minutes framework?  Slow time down, perhaps?

Nah.  They simply speeding up shows with compression technologies.  This has been documented, among other things, higher than normal voices due to speeding up some sequences.

As you can probably guess, viewers have noticed and more will.  I simply cannot imagine zombie moans to become shrills in The Walking Dead, can you?

This will only accelerate cord-cutting and make matters worse for the current TV model.  Personally, if these old media guys want to accelerate their own demise for short-term gains, I could care less.

The Disney Way: Surprises Shoppers With An Impromtu Performance With Live Characters

You only have to watch this brilliant bit of marketing from Disney in the forming of Disney magic on unsuspecting shoppers.


Man Or Robot

Here is a short video clip of an actor pretending to be an a robot.  With the sound effects, he really hit it out of the park.

I'll say this much.  We are a long way from androids let alone robots.  And for AI in human forms to have fluid human like motions, it will be even further into the future.  Perhaps after Apple is done with the iPhone and the iCar, maybe we can have the brilliance of Cupertino bring us the iRobot.

Or will it be called "Siri"?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Phone Cases That Serve As Wallets Underscore How Badly We Need Mobile Payment and ID

Even before the smartphones were integrated into our daily lives, before Blackberries, the original iPhone, and the HTC G1, there was the Palm Pilot.  And I could not be more excited by it when Dave the Mobile Warrior showed me his Palm from US Robotics.  It was an eye opener.  Prior to that, I was using Casio made personal digital assistants (PDA) with black-and-white screens.

But the Pilot was a competely innovative device that was the future.  If you consider just how forward thinking the Palm was, even with its ancient input with the plastic stylus, you knew this was the future.  And let's be honest, be it the iPhone or a Galaxy Note, they owed their DNA to the Palm. 

And when I upgraded to the Palm Zire with an integrated camera, that was the moment when I realized the value of having a mobile computer that you can carry in  your pocket and you take everywhere with you.  The only thing I carried around in my pocket, then and now, is my wallet.  I thought wouldn't it be awesome when we can integrate both the PDA and the wallet into one?

With NFC payment used by Google Wallet years ago and, now, Apple Pay, we are a step closer to that future.  However, upon seeing the number of smartphone cases that has a flip or cover that includes credit card-sized slots, I also realize just how far we are from having a truly integrated wallet in our smartphones.

These wallet cases remind us that we still need to carry around our driver's license, a credit card or two, or reward cards.  So far, there is only one state I know of that allows identification through a smartphone while only a handful are actually looking to integrating driver's identifications into mobile devices.

However, I'm hopeful the momentum for the smartphone to replace or integrate the contents we now carry in our wallets into apps will happen sooner rather than later given the surge in mobile payments in the last few months. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nutella Founder Died, The Awesome Spread Came About Due to Chocolate Shortage

Source:  CNN.

Rest in peace, Mr. Ferrero.  Thanks for Nutella.  We eat quite a bit of it.  What is interesting is how it came about.  During World War II, chocolate was rationed due to shortage.  So, he mixed hazelnuts with chocolate to produce more product for his family's pastry shop.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

iCar: Won't Be A Minivan and Might Be A Decade From A Showroom

In reading dozens of articles about certain rumors that either is more and more concrete with each passing hour, there are a couple of takeaways about a potential move into the automotive market by Apple.

First, in hiring a former head of R&D from Mercedes, Apple ain't gonna build a minivan that may or may not be electric only and may or may not be self-driving. Have you see Mercedes' non-sedan vehicles. Ugly! Jony Ives and his team should have soemthing for us that should give Telsa a run for their money. So, no minivan.

Second, how is your awesome HomeKit enabled and Apple streaming video service working out for you on your awesome Apple TV 3 and Apple Home Cinema 4K panel? What, no? Yeah, it's been years in the making and no evidence that Apple has "cracked" televsion as Jobs alluded to in the Walter Issacson Steve Jobs biography.

The Apple TV started off as a hobby and only in the last year when Tim Cook took that label off and, yet, we are still waiting. Having said that, it could be years until we seem a full TV service and hardware from Apple.

And the iCar is just as complicated to develop and there really will not be an opportunity for a beta car or calling an Apple branded car a "hobby". Apple will have to have fully filled out everything before they can hit the carshows with it and start delivering it to the market.

A quick Google search on the average time it takes to develop a car turned up three years. With the new technologies that Apple will be testing, materials, artificial intelligence, robotics, and who knows what new innovations Apple will try to bring to the market, I'm gonna guess Apple will take twice that long. So a ten years window is not out of the real of possibility.

On top of that, 6 to 10 years is a long time and the rest of the auto industry will not be standing still. Tesla will have improved its own profile vehicles and have addressed a bigger part of the market with better and more efficient Model S and X. Even with a minor delay or two, Model 3 will have been out on the market for years. This is also not discounting vast improvements being made by existing electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius, and the Volt. Others will also come out with their own green cars soon.

I bring this up only because Apple will need to address where the market is going to be a decade from now and offer something that can still be disruptiveand game-changing. It is hard to fathom what Apple can bring to the market that will give car owners the same reactions iPhone owners had when they first got their Apple mobile devices and say "wow, I can't believe how I lived without this before".


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lynch Should Retire To Save Health

Source:  MSN.

We all know that American football can be very physical.  I was going to use the word "brutal" but it's not like this was the ancient gladiator games.  Still, concussions from years of physical hits on the fields has taken their tolls on a number of current and retired players.  Not to mention the wear and tear on the other parts of their bodies that professional athletes put them selves through in the name of the competitive sports and the huge salaries they command.

So, word comes just as Superbowl runner-up Seattle Seahawks running back (for those outside the US, he's usually the guy that is tasked to run the ball) Marshawn Lynch is contemplating retirement, I'm all for it.  He's made millions and can probaly make tens of millions more.  His health still seem intact.  Maybe the smart thing is to call it quits and enter a new chapter of his life.

It's likely he has many opportunities that will open up.  Sports commentor.  Businessman.  Or enter the NFL as an advistor and, one day, maybe even head coach. 

More importantly, he would have a chance of a long life without many of the ailments that would come from playing another three to five years in the NFL.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Duet: Macbook Pro And iPad Air, Awesome and Creative Use of the iPad For Increased Productivity

Most worker drones have an one-screen work routine.  One laptop, one screen.  Or phone or tablet.  However, there are many who deal with multiple screens to increase efficiency.  Recently, I've come acrossed an app called Duet for the iPad (iOS App Store) and Mac (Duet Website).  By downloading the app from the app store for the iPad and a version for the Mac, you can turn your iPad into a second screen via the cable that Apple provides with your iPad.

I can rave about the virtues of having a second-screen, but what good is that if I don't provid examples of how having a second screen can increase productivity?  And I reckon it can also work for entertainment as well.

My photo doesn't do justice to Duet but you get the picture, right? More at On Apple.

Apple Should Prepare to Leave China (There Is Still Time To Execute Such A Plan)

At first glance, you might think that the title of this article is a clickbait considering that China is the second biggest economy in the w...