Monday, June 29, 2015

Microsoft Slowly Imploding? Layoffs, Sales, Executives Leaving

When a new chief executive officer comes on board, he usually does a bit of cleaning.  It happens with just about any companies.  It happened when Larry Page took over.  It happened when Steve Jobs returned to Apple and it sure as heck happened when Tim Cook took control of Apple with major changes.  Now, it's Microsoft's Satya Nadella's turn. However, while the previously mentioned changes instituted by those CEOs appear orderly and planned, it is difficul to put Nadella's latest changes in that category nor does it appear we'll see the end of it and see Microsoft on the verge of a new era.

First, there is the executive resignations including the former CEO of Nokia Stephen Elop.  In all, four senior executives were shown the door.  Now, comes news that Microsoft is planning to layoff more than 1,200 employees from its ad display division.  It spoke to the failure to compete with other ad companies, in particular, Google (Bloomberg).

Furthermore, Microsoft is selling to Uber its image collection group within Bing.  If Bing was healthy and competitive, it's unlikely this transaction would have taken place.  Taken a long with layoff in the display ad group, you have to be worry whether Bing is working out worse than Microsoft is letting on.

Having said that, a lot is riding on Windows 10 to reinvigorate the PC market, and to a lesser extent, the mobile phone market where Microsoft is struggling against Android and iOS.  So far, things are looking well in the Windows beta stages.  Microsoft desperate needs Windows to continue its dominance and bring in much needed revenue to cover the rest of the company to give Nadella time to grow other Microsoft's core businesses. 

Balmer has done a great deal of harm during his reign.  Sure, Microsoft made tons of money but on core products like Windows and Office while the rest of the company languished or simply failed to innovate.  For the moment, it appears that Nadella is a more astute CEO who knows the culture under Balmer has to go.  However, it'll take time as the latest changes has not instill confidence in the market or among its supporters. 

Whether you're an Apple or Google fan, you have to appreciate the competitive value that Microsoft represents in multiple markets.  And as always, more competition the better. 

Still, it would be nice if Microsoft had something more to share than what appears to be all bad news.

iPhone: 8 Years Old And Still Changing Mobile and Beyond

8 Years ago today, Steve Jobs unleashed Apple's most revolutionary device, the iPhone.  Since then, much has changed.  Did Apple expect the iPhone to become the best selling smartphone and serve as Apple's growth engine in the world?  Maybe but not to the extent it is today.

Did Apple expect the iPhone to spawn the iPad and move Apple further into mobile and into the wearable market with the Apple Watch?  Probably not.

Did Apple believe the iPhone to serve as the hub for the home and, by extension of CarPlay, the automobile?  And quite possibly, provide Apple with the financial resources to enter the auto industry with its own Apple Car?

And what about the disruptions into other markets?  Nintendo is in trouble in no small part its own fault with questionable choices in the console market but iOS gaming has disrupted Nintendo's Gameboy dominance in the mobile gaming market. 

And the consumer camera market?  Companies are still churning out cameras but if you look around, not many people still use them.  And Apple continues to innovate the iPhone camera with the goal of rivaling even the dSLR.  The iPhone camera is so good now that it even allows TV and film makers to make videos on the go and cheap.

It's also unlikely that Apple expected the iPhone with the App Store to create more than a million jobs while paying tens of billions to developers. 

While it is not worth our time to get into which mobile players are or are not still around (Palm is gone.  So is Nokia who sold its phone business to Microsoft.  Windows and Office profit continues to pay for Microsoft's Windows Phone adventures.  Blackberry, Motorola, and HTC are still around but barely), the iPhone has definitely been a huge deal on a scale beyond the mobile market.  And it feels like we're just finishing up the first quarter of the mobile game.  Apple ain't done with the iPhone just yet.

Clues in Swift Offers Mac and iOS Future

I've just started working on Swift, my first programming language since, well, I don't really remember.  But I have noticed how simple things are so far if you have the right tutorial.  And from what I can see after two weeks of studying and messing around with it, I have to believe that for those with a lot more programming skills, you should be able to discern just where iOS devices are head based on what you can do with Swift and offers some clues whether the lines between an iPad and a Mac might be.

One of the things you have to have noticed if you're wholly in Apple's ecosystem is that innovations and improvements Apple made on one platform can show up on another if it makes sense.  Take notification for instance.  It started on the iPhone and iPad and, now, it's one of the best features of OS X.

Furthermore, programmers are finding useful information in beta versions of Apple's OS.  Recently, it was discovered that Apple could be working on a 4K display or an iMac equipped with a 4K monitor.  Also, improvements to iOS keyboards on the iPad points to an iPad with a bigger screen that makes it more real than an unicorn.

I'm investing more and more time in Swift.  It's a bit intimidating at times especially after making a few twists and turns that tutorials did not authorize.  Personally, I have not found anything that I can share with the iOS community about Apple's future plans.

However, I'm sure there are more clues there than ever about what Apple has planned for the next iPhone, iPad, and unreleased Mac updates.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Safari Without Google Search: It Is A Matter of When, Not If

Here is an interesting analysis (The Street) of what it will would like should Apple remove Google from Safari, Apple's default browser, as the default search engine.  Financial terms aside, it would be interesting in speculating what would serve as Apple's default search engine instead and how that would impact mobile computing going forward.  And while Microsoft's Bing would serve as the logical heir, do not forget how Apple's Tim Cook is really making privacy an issue that would put DuckDuckGo in the running.

The Street article cover much of the basis for why Apple will dump Google. Google is a major competitor to Apple in multiple markets - computing (OS X versus Chrome OS), mobile (Android verus iOS, Google Now versus Siri), wearables (Android Wear verus Apple Watch), and their growing ecosystems (App Store, Apple Music, iTunes verus Google Play, Google Music). That's just today's competitive market where the two tech giants overlap.  Months and years from now, look for them to compete for the home, wallet, and even in the auto industry (some day, maybe even space?). 

From Apple's perspective, it makes sense for it to keep its competitor off its platforms and ecosystems and doing it within limits and not to run afoul of public sentiment and maybe even regulatory authorities.  But Apple has other good reasons to move beyond Google.

Tim Cook, given the national and international atmosphere over government spying and the erosion of privacy by Internet companies, has made maintaining the privacy of its customers a feature if you will.  At times in public, Cook has suggested that some companies that offer free services were not in fact free but were selling information collected from users. 

Furthermore, as mobile computing meant a move away from traditional desktop computing where Google owns a large piece of the search and ads revenue and further to mobile apps where Google search is not as dominant, being able to choke off Google's revenue stream is a plus.  Just how much that is now weighed into the equation to dump Google is only something Apple really knows. 

While the article did have to mention Bing to cover all the basis, it would make sense for Apple to seek search solutions that does not mean its users have to give up personal information or be tracked on the Web whether they are using Safari on iOS or OS X.  The logical and sole solution appears to be DuckDuckgo. 

Still, Google is betting that free will figure into thinking of most users when they decide which mobile platform they like to use, convenience, and even the service or app themselves.  And when it comes to cloud computing and services, Apple is way behind while Google continues to provide great cloud services for free.

Google already has a taste of the future.  Apple replaced Google with Bing with Siri's searches and has added Duckduckgo to Safari as an option.  Both moves are small compared to when Apple erase Google from OS X and iOS.  Not only that, Apple continues to make changes to iOS to choke off advertisers and gathering of information from iOS users.  These are important information that Google and others need in order to sell ads,

iPhone: On-Screen Fingerprint Identification More Real With Apple's Acquisition For 2016

According to reports (MacDailyNews, CNN), Apple has bought a fingerprint identification company, Privaris, that could help make the home button disappear and move the fingerprinting scanner that we now use for TouchID onto the iOS screen itself.  Furthermore, it could bring TouchID to other Apple products like the Mac as well.

Remember that to make TouchID a reality and as useful as it is today, Apple sought and bought AuthenTec back in the middle of 2012 (Phone Arena).  And when did TouchID show up on the iPhone?  A year later on the iPhone 5S in September of 2013.

If history is any indication, perhaps we might see a radically redesigned iPhone without the home button and the TouchID moved to behind the screen itself and opening a whole host of new real world uses. 

Of course, my next immediate thought is how will Apple address all the smudges on the iPhone 7 or whatever Apple will call the iPhone in 2016? 

Furthermore, consider that Apple's new hot selling Apple Watch has Apple Pay but lack the TouchID component, it could greatly enhance and change the wearable market.  While I'm more confident Apple can incorporate Privaris technology into the iPhone by next year, it's less certain what Apple has planned for the Apple Watch given the size of the device, battery life, and other considerations.

Personally, I'm looking forward to Apple losing the home button and shrinking the size and weight of the 5.5" screen iPhones.  As it is now, it's one of the tallest mobile devices on the phone market.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Did Apple Back-Pedal Because of Taylor Swift?

Apple will now pay artists royalties due them during the three free months trial period.  (The Next Web).  And this was in direct response to Taylor Swift's open complaint about Apple's previous policy of not paying artists royalties during the three months free trial.

It's great PR.  At least, some might think that.  For Apple, this is not about money.  However, it does speak to how Apple can maneuver more quickly under Tim Cook.  It also says that Apple feels at ease in bending some rules or doing away with them when it feels it will not have adverse affect on the company's bottom line.  This u-turn certain won't hurt Apple's image.

To be sure, this will have a long-term implication in the music industry.  See, there was mention that Apple would pay the artists during the free trial period.  No mention whether the labels would get a penny.  Perhaps, this was Apple's move all long.  Playing a couple of moves ahead of everyone else.  

Perhaps now, Swift's music will not be a part of Apple Music's streaming service while it continues to be absent from Spotify and others' music library.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rumored Apple Watch Features - Only New Health Related Ones Would Set AW2 Up For Success

There were a flurry of Apple Watch rumors for the next version that will come out in 2016.  It was a lot for people to chew on and it gave holdouts reason to cheer that they made the right decision to wait and not get the current one.  However, FaceTime calling would be great but there was no mention of new health related features.  And I think continuing focus on health would be a bigger seller than the othe rumored features.

Consider that the current Apple Watch is paid beta as all first generation products are, and not just those from Apple, it good to see it so embraced and loved by its wearers.  And the heart rate monitor is nice, it is still not enough.  Apple Watch's heart rate feature is a "me, too" feature that the Apple Watch absolutely must have given that most of its competitors have it and so do quite a few exercise monitoring bands. 

A couple of interesting features would be helpful to have that can catapult the Apple Watch further.  Obviously, being able to monitor blood pressure is a must have.  This was a rumored feature that many thought would be available on this current Apple Watch.  I had not expected that to happen only because of how I know what it would entail and it was just unlikely Apple could have something like that working out the door.  If anyone could do it, it would have been Apple.  I had given that a less than 50% chance of happening.

As for Apple Watch 2 with blood pressure monitoring?  Hey, this is Apple we're talking about here. 

Right now, we can gather tempature and climate conditions on the Apple Watch from apps pushing such data to the watch. But imagine if we can get that information directly on the watch without the need to pull it from apps on the iPhone.  Temperature, humidty, pressure, UV Index, and other helpful data that can potentially help you determine how much water you need, whether you need to stay out of the sun, and other health-related activities. 

I would love to have both features on the next Apple Watch but only the latter is likely to happen given the technical constraints.  However, you do see what I am talking about. New health-related features would be more helpful than FaceTime calling,

Note: It's likely FaceTime audio is merely a software issue rather than a hardware one.  It's not known whether Apple is even considering actual FaceTime video calling beyond experimenting with it in its highly secretive and secured labs.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Major Security Flaw in iOS

Apple has left a major security hole in iOS and because of its dubious app approval system, malicious apps can potentially roam about the iDevices and steal passwords stored on Keychain and personal information (Source:  The Register).  Only yesterday, we were talking about Samsung's own security problem with its flawed digital signing.  Now, it's Apple's turn.

As of this moment, there is no word whether a fix is forthcoming.  And given the seriousness of this flaw, it's better that Apple address this as soon as possible.  What has made this flaw worse is that it gives malware the ability to circumvent Apple's sandboxing between apps and let it steal information from other apps.

This flaw was discovered six months ago and no word from Apple.  Either it does not take this seriously or that it has yet to find a solution.  Both scenarios are worrying for the average mobile warrior.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Privacy: DDG Attributes 600% Growth to Apple and Privacy Concerns

Source:  9to5Mac.

An interview with DuckDuckGo CEO, Gabe Weinberg, revealed how DuckDuckGo has made money without going to the extent Google and other companies that rely on ad revenues in which they collect information on their users.  They attribute their 3 billion searches a year growth on being part of Apple's library of search engines to choose from and concerns over various governments' big brother aspirations and privacy concerns.

Okay, specifically, the NSA was mentioned but, really, what government would not want the kinds and amounts of information the US government currently collects on us.  Granted that while I'm not concern about any malicious intents of the authorities (yet) and I genuinely believe that some believe they need the information to combat terrorism and other crimes, it does concern me at times.

So Duckduckgo is my default search engine but I'm more concern about what companies do with my information than just the NSA storing it in its databases.  Nevertheless, we all want to keep our eyes open no matter who or what wants to erode our sense of privacy.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wearable Tech: Samsung Gear S With Two Day Battery Life, That's What Others Should Shoot For In The Next Year

Source:  Engadget.

Regardless of how you feel about Android, Google, Samsung, or how the whole smartwatch and other wearable tech is headed, we are still much earlier in wearable computing devices than ever before.  An equivalent situation would be as if we are in the beginning days of mobile, as in the early PDA days.  But what I have to say about Samsung's Gear S battery life is a good start.

Right now, even Apple's watch can barely hit 20 hours of light use.  And that's a stretch.  And it's coming someone who has one on his wrist as he pounds out this post.  The Engadget post is a worthy read.

I am hoping Apple, Motorola, LG, and the up-and-coming Chinese companies shoot for - at least a couple of days.

But don't think I'll be happy with just that.  I've been using various workout bands.  Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband, and the Fitbit Force and Charge.  So, I'm very used to week long battery life.  That's what I want from these tech giants.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Great News: Online Video To Surprise Physical Sales and Rentals

Source:  Engadget, Bloomberg.

You want to know what disruption is like on a huge earthquakesque style?  Revenue from downloads like iTunes and Google Play and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon will surpass sales generated from DVD sales and rentals.  You can be sure the studios as well as any stores, brick-and-mortars or online stores, knew this was coming.   Perhaps, they did not think it would happen this fast.

Only in the last year have I noticed significantly more dicounts and bundles of online movies.  It's typical for Google to offer discounts on select movies but hardly on iTunes. And this year, I'm noticing more price cuts.  I'm guess DVD sales have slowed an Blu-ray has not delivered the content developers and studios to the promised land.

This is significant as we should see more parity in terms of prices and offerings between online versions and physical versions of movies and televison shows.  This will be in part to draw attention to the ease of downloading or streaming videos and not having to go to the stores to pick up a movie or wait for the UPS guy to deliver it. 

To make matters worse, or better depending on who you are, online revenue will also surprise box-office takes by 2017.  This is also signficant largely because skyrocketing prices of movie tickets.  Consider that a ticket will probably cost $15 each, or $20 (maybe more) if you watch it in IMAX or 3D, versus waiting a few months, sometimes weeks, to download and own it and watch it in the comfort of your home entertainment studio for about the same price. 

Does this mean we will be able to watch the next Avengers movie with family and friends on your 80" 4K setup?  Not even close.  The studios will have some foks with really good spreadsheet kung fu who will figure out how best for the studios to maximize their profits in light of tech changes and social movie watching behaviors.  It's possible some movies will be available for streaming or purchase the day it hits the theater.  I've often seen indie movies go that route.  This is especially true if there are limited releases. 

However, we never want to say never.  Let's just the studios will listen to their Silicon Valley partners and understand that the best way for us to part with our money is value and convenience. 

Showtime Follows HBO On Apple's Platform

Source: Variety.

So, CBS will be bringing its premium channel to Apple's platform as an exclusive for a short while.  No word on how long that window will be.  I'm sure with HBO's exclusive with Apple coming to an end, Android devices will soon be able to venture into Westero (Game of Thrones - HBO site) soon.

This is just another step forward in breaking the old TV model and venturing into the future of video entertainment.  Note that this is only a very small step.  It will be a while before Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Google, and maybe the social networks can wrestle control of video content away from entrenched and well funded cable companies with a lot of influence in Washington and state capitals. 

No work on when Apple and Showtime's exclusive deal will end.  I do have an Apple TV and I look forward to watching Homeland (official website).

Apple is currently working on deals with content providers to offer a subscription service to its customers.  Meanwhile, Google isn't standing ildly by.  Google is also putting together a package via Youtube (Bloomberg).

Take this a step further, it is not out of the realm of possibility that traditional tech and social media giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook could also get into the content creation business.  Microsoft already dipped its toe with TV show development.

Look for more to come.   Future has started.

iPad and WWDC Prediction: Apple Will Upgrade Siri And Users Will Not Be Able to Choose Between ChatGPT or Gemini

At this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple is set to unveil major upgrades to its virtual assistant Siri. These enhanc...