Monday, March 23, 2015

Virgin EV Against Tesla, Apple Likely To Go At It Alone

There is plenty of chatter that Richard Branson is up there with Elon Musk as far as space goes but Branson is missing something Musk has and is considering getting into that game:  electric cars.  That in and of itself isn't news.  What I had originally though of, for all of ten seconds, is that maybe Virgin should partner with Apple.  But the more I think about it, the more I believe Apple will likely go at it alone - no deals with Mercedes, MBW, Telsa, or anyone else.

After all, the most likely partner Apple is likely to go with is Telsa and we already know from the poaching war that it is not going to happen. 

However, Branson's entry into the high-end electric car market should be a welcoming move for auto lovers.  Competition.  And that is what Telsa lacks even as it continues to innovate.  And while a Virgin challege is good, it won't be like the kind of competition and disruption that Apple can bring. And the Apple way is what will likely end up with Apple doing it on its own.

Imagine in 4-6 years when Apple, Telsa, and Virgin's electric cars are all going up not just against one another but the offers from traditional auto makers like BMW - beautiful sleek and fast cars that run 400+ miles on one charge powered by a green power grid. 

Of course, for a fact, only Tesla and BMW are major players in the electric car market.  Apple's entry is still just a rumor and there is just as much as chance as we'll see an Apple car as likely not.  Short answer is no one knows despite all the smoke from Cupertino. 

As for Virgin, Branson's musing about Virgin's entry into the auto market are just a few off the cuff comments.  Nothing more.  Not even a whiff of smoke.

But we can dream of the possibilites, can we?

Friday, March 20, 2015

With 2015 Macbook, Apple May Mark a Turning Point From Intel In Favor of Its Own Chips

It's like 2015 is going to be remembered as the year when Apple set in motion for its in-house developed chips to replace Intel chips in Macs.  This started with Apple using a relatively underpowered, by today's standard, Intel chip in the new Macbook as the much anticipated iPad Pro wait in the wings to be introduced with an updated iOS 9 more suitable for power users.  And this iPad Pro will sport a brand new A-series chip with comparable computing power but a longer battery life than the Macbook.

In fact, the iPad, since the very first iPad introduced by Steve Jobs, have a longer battery life than most of the Macbook variants including this 12" Macbook.

One can assume, then, that Apple will allow this new Macbook battle it out on the market with the iPad Pro.

More at On Apple.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Social: Interesting Article from BBC About Limo Drivers On Oscar Night

This post from BBC talked about the thousands of limos and other vehicles used to chauffeur stars and other "important" folks around Los Angeles on that all "important" night for Hollywood.  As someone who has lived in LA and taken these things for granted, I found the post interesting.

The closest Hollywood related events I've been to are premieres, especially those in Westwood by UCLA.  Streets would be cordoned off for blocks depending on how bit the movie is and who will be there.

Of course, that was nothing like the award shows like the Oscar.  I could not imagine what it would be like to be a part of something like that, either sitting in traffic because of that or someone like a driver who is an integral part of that.

Already, LA traffic is pretty bad.  Those of us who have lived here most of our lives know to avoid those areas.  What I found interesting is that the Hollywood Bowl (wiki) is essentially turned into a limo parking lot.

I imagine dispatchers at these limo companies use technologies akin to those used by air traffic controllers to keep track of drivers, routes, arrival times, etc.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Apple TV: Recent TV Moves and Deals By Apple Explains Why There Is No App Store Yet (If Ever)

There are no apps on the Apple TV other than those that Apple put there.  Video, music, podcast, and Netflix to name a few are the only ones there.  In fact, there are quite a few choices for users to select regardless of music, video, or live streaming media.  What is not there is an app store that many have been asking for or rumored about.  And to be frank, there may never be an app store for the Apple TV.

Apple has so far been adding "windows", if you will, that allows the user to consume content without any actual interaction.  No social graph.  You can play games on your iPhone or iPad via Airplay, mostly through mirroring, hardly ideal.

And let's face it, the currently Apple TV is good enough for streaming and Airplay, nothing more.  And until Apple updates the hardware on the Apple TV, we won't know what Apple may have planned. 

And once Apple's own streaming video service is available, it might be all that Apple needs - more content.

If anything, Apple will add apps relating to its "kits".  By that, I mean HealthKit and HomeKit.  There is so much potential there but Apple will likely move slow on those fronts as well, especially HomeKit.  It could take years for something tangible to develop, a "wow" factor that has so far been missing.  For the most part, Apple is happy to sit back and let others play with them and let developers and hardware makers figure out how to best use Apple's services. 

And if you think about it, what apps do you really need on the Apple TV that works better on a TV than on an iOS device.  Games quickly come to mind but Apple's support for third-party hardware like game controllers has been muted.  Again, it just feels like Apple was testing the water with the controllers until they see a breakthrough.  Apple TV plus an iOS equals a gaming console. 

There have been rumblings about a new Apple TV each and every single year but in 2014, it did feel like Apple was finally going to open up the floodgate a bit.  Apple stopped calling it a "hobby" for one thing.  And with the recent price cut, the $99 price point is available for a newer Apple TV.

Let's just see what the rest of 2015 have in store.  Or 2016.



Crimeans Now Regret Their Decision To Join Russia

This was sort of expected but to see people in Crimea voicing their regrets to turn their back on Ukraine and accept a bad deal from Putin should be an eye-opener to those who buy into propagandas without really thinking it through.  I'm not saying we don't have that in the West but this is very telling.

Crimea is experiencing all the bad things that Russians have gone through and realized it now.  Long ass lines for services.  Job prospects gone due to sanctions which is compounded by a talent flight as professionals leave and go back to the Ukraine.

If anything, the West should continue to hold a strong line on sanctions and the Ukrainians need to become a strong voice against Putin's agressions.  Build a new and open nation and become a beacon of "leave if you want.  You're getting none of prosperity and openness". 

Let Crimea turn into an economic wasteland like much of Russia will soon be if Putin doesn't go.

It's sad to see the people suffer because of Putin's pride.  I get that Russia is worry about security but it's not like the NATO or the EU will invade.  It's ideas fight ideas.  That is all it is these days. That is now wars are waged.  And Putin knows that his corrupt system, his only means of staying in power is by buying off his cronies, will not stand compared to the greater prosperity in the West. 

Frankly, Russians should not stand for this.  Putin is using Russian nationalism against itself.  Russians should look at themselves and see the proud people they are and say "we deserve better". 

Source:  Bloomberg.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cord-Cutting: Apple TV Channels Coming This Year

With HBO Go on board, Apple is on the verge of debuting its own TV service supposedly with around 25 channels for about $40.  This is as concrete as we are going to get given years of rumors and, frankly, disappointment.


According to Wall Street Journal (via Cult of Mac), Apple has lined up major networks like ABC, Fox, and CBS.  Considering how long it has taken and subscribers already with Sling TV as a choice at $20 a month and 14 channels, it might not be that great a deal.  And furthermore, from what we can tell, it's not "cord-cutter" friendly.

A lot can still change between now and this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, supposedly when Apple will unveil the service.  However, if history is any indication, it's unlikely Apple will pick the WWDC for this unveiling as Apple tend to want to focus on iOS and OS X during the conference.

If Apple does unveil its streaming TV service, it'll likely be in the fall when Apple updates iOS devices like the iPhone 6S and iPad.

What channels are we likely to see?  Based on Sling TV's service, ESPN and a few Disney properties are likely on board.  If CBS is a part of the deal, perhaps Comedy Central might be a part of it.  You can't have a package without CNN.  And as for Fox, perhaps the FX network.

Also, in addition to being HBO Go's exclusive launch partner, Apple may be offering an online version of Showtime, a property of CBS.

Which we are unlikely to see consumers giving the ability to subscribe to channels that they want, what Apple and Sling TV are offering could be the next best thing.  A small subset of popular channels with value-added packages depending on what the subscribers want to watch.

Is this a good thing?  Absolutely.  Slow but surely, consumers will have more choices and competition in the market as we move closer to the death of the current TV and cable models.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mobile: A Windows Tablet For Less Than $50, Cheaper Than An Actual Copy of Windows

Source:  Digital Reader.

Windows tablet for $48?  A good deal?  Before we get into that, I like to share a little story regarding my Nexus 7 and my Windows tablet experience.

I dropped my Nexus 7 on New Year's Day and, despite having a case, the screen spider-webbed and the whole tablet was no longer usable because touch input no longer works.  After a busy couple of months, I went to Best Buy looking for a replacement.  I bought an Asus tablet, pretty much a successor to the Nexus 7 even though Google has not updated it last year.

While I was at Best Buy looking for the two dozen or so Android tablet, I became intrigued by few Windows tablets.  There were HP, Dell, Toshiba, Acer, and even Asus.  And they were priced competitively to the Android tablets.  Only Microsoft's own Surface variants cost more.  This came down largely to specs.

I spent some time with a $99 Dell tablet.  It was decent.  It was not a speedster and the built quality was on par with other tablets that cost between $99 to $200.

For a brief moment, I considered getting a Windows tablet instead of getting another Android device. Ultimately, I decided to go with my original plan and walked out with a new Asus tablet.

Why didn't I get one?  Well, I just did not see any compelling reason for getting a Windows tablet over an Android one.  In fact, there were quite a few apps that I use on Android that do not have a Windows version.

Now, this $48 Windows tablet.  It's a 7" tablet with a screen that screamed 2010 and subpar specs that would greatly degrade the performance and experience.

The DR post does not think a 7" screen works well with Windows.  I personally did not see any issues relating to the screen size.  Most of the tablets had higher resolutions than the 1024x600 resolution on this $48 Chinese tablet.

Even if Best Buy had offered this $48 tablet, I would not get one.  And it's for the same reasons why I would not get the $99 to $199 Windows tablet.  The experience would be subpar.

If you want a real Windows tablet, you're better off getting the Surface from Microsoft that costs about ten times more.

Blogging Is Alive And Well But Old World Pressures Still Apply Especially If You Take Investor Money

Gigaom, by all accounts, is a very popular tech blog and many assumed that they were doing well.  There are plenty of eyeballs on the Internet so it was surprising to hear that they closed down.  What was interesting was that it came suddenly, without warning, and even its employees had no idea that was coming.

So, what happened?  Well, there was a flurry of posts about it but the gist was that they took venture money rather than grow organically.  By taking on investors, there is always an urgency to deliver.  And by whatever metrics used, Gigaom did not measure up.


However, blogging is alive and well.  There are plenty of sites and blogs out there, including this one. It's important to understand there is a difference between blogging for the love of the subjects and blogging for profit.

In the aftermath, I think the sudden closure of Gigaom has given many notice and not just to bloggers.  You're going to hear a lot of people, writers, entrepreneurs, and developers all talk about organic growth.  In fact, that has already happened as some developers talked about not taking VC money and growing based on the merit of their products and services.

It's ironic given that in 2008, Gigaom pushed a post on how small app developers (casual gamers) can survive the Great Recession.  It's too bad that they did not write an article on how a tech news site like itself can survive VCs.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Green: Warming Gas, Carbon Dioxide, Level in 2014 Same as 2013 Despite Booming Economy

Source:  New Scientist.This isn't really a tech or social media story that I normally like to share about Apple, Google, and others but the news that carbon dioxide emissions in 2014 was the same as the previous year is pretty significant.  And in some part, it has to do with alternative energy sources that came only despite a growing global economy.

The only times this has happened were during economic slowdowns experienced in the early 80s, the recession of 1992, and the Great Recession in 2009. While researchers at Tyndall Institute for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK had expected a 2.3% increase in carbon emission, changing energy use and patterns should have alerted them to the possibility that carbon increase should slow dramatically. 

As dirty as China is, renewable energy use is increasing in the Middle Kingdom while coal use is down.  Furthermore, tempered growth in China is also contributing to the carbon level in 2014 equaling that of the previous year. 

It's just one year and the trend is continuing carbon increases.  But the level in 2014 showed that it does not have to be this way.  Fortune 500 companies like Apple, Google, and Walmart have taken the lead combating global warming by switching over the solar, wind, and other renewable sources of energy. 

Furthermore, energy consumption of coal and oil is down in the United States as well.  This is despite the fact that gas prices have down come in the last year.  If we can put together a string of 4-6 years of lower carbon emission, who knows.  Perhaps that might be enough to reverse some of the warming effects.

And maybe in five years, a March day in Los Angeles like today won't be in the 90s and we'll start getting more rains and snow cover in the local mountains. 

Social: Blowing Millions, Another Pro Down And Out

Source:  Bleacher Report.

I am always sorry when I hear folks down on their luck.  I know people like that and I have been like that.  Now, another former NBA player blew millions and is now forced to work at McDonald's.  Somehow, he blew away nearly $4.4 million in earings from his basketball career. 

Most folks will never make close to that kind of money in their life time.  I know I won't. 

It all comes down to maturity and financial intelligence.  Too many of us lack one or both of that.  Again, myself included. 

If you want to watch a documentary about former professional athletes who ended up destitute, you should look at ESPN's "Broke". It's heart breaking to see stars who used to cheer talking about all the bad investments, irrational spending, and not saving for retirement. 

Of course, it is not just athletes.  There are those in Hollywood and the music industry who went through the same thing.  One day, you're making millions and the next day, it's all gone. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Intel Profit Warning: What Is Going On? More People Going Mobile And Less PC

It's been confirmed over the last year that tablet sales have been down.  So, does that mean PC sales are up?  Well, Mac sales are but the larger PC market is still stagnating.  Hence, Intel's warning.  So, what is exactly going on here?  What are the billions of people doing their computing on? 

For the most part, people are holding on to their computers and tablets longer.  The upgrade cycle has become longer largely because today's computers and tablets are so powerful.  While Microsoft struggles to stimulate demand for next version of Windows, Windows 10, it certainly has not help with the computer buying cycle.

When Intel warned that its outlook was not as rosy as stated, an interesting thing happened.  Microsoft and other tech companies associated with the PC market lost value while other tech giants like Apple and Google rose.  It spoke volumes about where the future is headed when Microsoft manages to stem the the PC market from bleeding for a peroid with Windows 10.  If anything, Micrisoft could be look to continue its Windows brand beyond PC and double its effort in mobile and tablet markets where it is barely a blip.

Furthermore, it does not help with Lenovo, Intel and Microsoft partners, install spyware in their laptops. 

As for Intel, it's multi-year plan to move beyond the PC and reinvent itself into a provider of mobile chips and services underscore again that more users while connected are doing so wireless on non-PC devices.

With over one billion Android devices sold and a couple of hundreds iOS devices sold in 2014, a vast major of them are not running Intel chips and Windows.  The question now is quickly and effectively can Intel, Microsoft, and the other PC guys pivot and become relevant again.

As consumers and mobile warriors, we want more competition and wish them luck.


If Apple Can Bring Innovation and Disruption To the Auto Industry, None of the Arguments For or Against Matter

This post from Boy Genius Report rehashed many of the reason why Apple is not likely to develop its own car.  The most talked about reason why Apple will not develop its own car is because of the historically low margin the auto industry has selling each car while Apple's products enjoy margins might higher.

If margin is more of an issue than the billions that Apple will likely make from selling cars, then that is correct.  It should also mean that Apple should get rid of some products with margins that are dragging down the iPhone.  Apple's crack team of executives have thought about this and will adjust the company as well as Wall Street accordingly. 

As far as margins go, Apple would make sure it can at least match if not exceeed the 15% margin that Porchse is pulling in and at least twice that of most luxuary brands. 

The other argument is the number of models Apple is likely to put out compared to BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and other high-end cars.  Telsa has only a couple of models.  Except for a few hiccups, it's doing quite well.  And on top of that, it has long-term plans in the works that should help the company stay lean and ahead of its competitors.  Apple with much more resources could manage at least that.

Then there is the argument that make a couple of extra billion dollars a year won't interest Apple.  Seriously?  If Apple looked at the number and auto landscape and think it is worth the risk, an extra $2 billion a year is not something it'll walk away from. 

The best argument that I can think of against Apple entering the auto industry is innovation.  What can Apple bring to the car that no one else has beyond just CarPlay and how it can maintain any competitive advantage over other auto makers.  In the smartphone market, Apple maintained a couple of years lead with the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad later but the market quickly caught up.  While Apple has managed to earn the lion's share of the mobile profit, the auto market is a different take altogether. 

So, it is not about margin and how much profit Apple can earn by selling cars.  It's about innovation and disruption of the auto industry and bringing a level of innovation that the auto companies have not faced in decades.  Even with the Model S, Tesla isn't quite putting the fear of Steve Jobs in GM, Ford, or BMW.  But Tim Cook and Apple can. 

And Apple has one advantage no automakers has, not even Telsa or Mercedes.  Apple's rich cult fans.  Period.

Still, I'm skeptical.  But I'm not Tim Cook and no one else is. Only he and a few at Apple knows whether it is worth the risk of developing and selling an Apple car.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Starting Own Music Streaming Services Equals Quick Billions?

Looks like Jay Z is trying to follow Apple's Dr. Dre, formerly of Beats, to become the next billionaire rapper.  That can be the only reason why he's starting his own music streaming service... (The Verge)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Green: Sacramento Let Californians Down By Allow Drinking Water To Be Contaminated

Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources of California inadvertently allowed oil companies to inject wastewater into hundreds of disposal wells in protected aquifers. The question is how do you "inadvertently" allow this to happen? The excuse is, get this, bad record keeping.

The problem is that this will be allowed to continue even though it is against the federal law.

How does that make any sense?  The problem is politics at any level of government comes down to just who has the keep pockets and what the public is willing to allow politicians and appointees to get away with.

High levels of benezene were detected.  It increases the risk of cancer and bone marrow failures.  A number of other adverse health effects have been attributed to benzene (wiki).

Look, I'm for a comprehensive energy solution, oil, coal, and renewables.  But it does not mean we allow ourselves be compromised regardless where the sources, again, oil, coal, or renewables.


Source:  LA Times.

Steve Jobs Is Smiling: HBO on Apple TV

Yup, Steve is smiling his trademark smile with a bit of a smirk at the news of the standalone HBO service, HBO Now, with Apple as its exclusive launch partner (media reports Apple with a 3-month window exclusivity).  The success of this launch, which others and I have already called it, will put mucho pressure the current cable TV model.

According to Recode, HBO is hoping to gain leverage over the cable and satellite industry in generating more revenue.  For now, HBO will charge $15 a month.  With Apple and, 3 months later, other means by which HBO Now will be able to be watched, it will add a new market for the cable channel - cord-cutters who want HBO without paying for cable TV bundles that most do not want to watch.  HBO wants broadband service providers to sell this new standalone service. 

And of course, Apple is all the more willing help HBO out if it means wrestling control of the media content away from the traditional players and destroying the current TV model.  Already, Sling TV with its $20 a month service that includes EPSN, TNT, CNN, and the Disneyland (there are more channels) is finding many takers. 

As a Sling TV subscriber, I can tell you that I'm very happy.  It would be awesome to have a science bundle includying SYFY but I'm patient. 

In the coming months, we'll see more effort along this line:  wrestling control away from tradtional cable TV.  Apple will certainly be a major player.  Even now, Sling TV is not available on Apple TV.  Perhaps, Tim Cook has a few designs with a rumored upgrade to the current Apple TV model. 

The end of the Recode article spoke of a stand-off between content providers and the cable TV gatekeepers and what weapons are at their disposal.  As a consumer, as long as the stand-off also mean others like Disney, Paramount, and Sony also provide their content via the HBO and Sling routes and we get more choices with less bundles, I'm happy with that.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Xiaomi, The "Apple" of China Pre-Installs Malware On Flagship Device

While I'm far from predicting a Samsung comeback in China with the S6, I am going to say that the news of Xiaomi installing malware on their flagship device, Mi 4 (Redmond Pie). The post did mention that this could be the result of tampering rather than a purposeful installation sanctioned by Xiaomi.

This issue here, however, is not whether Xiaomi sanctioned installation of tracking and spying apps on the Mi 4 but that Beijing likely mandated it.  I'm sure the executives at Xiaomi would rather not but if you want to be the darling of China, well, you better play ball.

It's why I'm likely unwilling to purchase Chinese branded phones even if they make their way over to Western markets.  I think I'll stick to my Nexus devices. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Amazon Brings Former Exclusive Games To iOS As Fire Device Sales Collapse, And What Of Minecraft

Source:  The Verge.

Amazon bought some game studios a couple of years ago in hopes of launching exclusives that it hope would stimulate sales of its own Android-forked OS devices, the Kindle Fire tablets and its ill-advised foray into the mobile phone market, the pretty much dead and Fire Phone.  It's like Fire tablets are not doing too well giving it has been many quarters since Amazon crowed about how many millions it has sold without actually giving the public a number.

This is pretty much the reason why Amazon is bring more of its game over to iOS.  One title, Tales from Deep Space, has been giving good reviews and the newer games should be pretty decent.  As an iOS gamer, I'm pretty happy with this. 

From a competitive stand point, there are two takeaways from this.  First, exclusives are not working out too well for developers unless it's on iOS.  Second, Amazon with its bad bet on the Fire Phone may have killed off its mobile hardware business while it tries its damn best to keep a small foothold in the living room. 

I'm personally glad that Apple has not gone down this route and it does not look like it will either.  This is a strategy that console makers like Microsoft and Sony often employed to entice gamers to jump into the Xbox or Playstation camps. 

And what of Minecraft?  Perhaps, Microsoft actually see a profitable business in the Minecraft universe.  However, I hope MC fans on non-Xbox platforms and non-Windows devices should expect Microsoft to prepare exclusives for its own platforms or cut back the perks of or at least cripple the game somewhat for non-Microsoft devices.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coffee: Closest Thing To Magic Beans

Source:  MSN.

First, I like to stress that as with most things, moderation and self-control is key to food, drinks, and anything else we do in life or put into our bodies in order to live a long fruitful life.  Having said that, as an avid coffee drinker, I like to say this new report, coffee drinkers who consume three to five cups of coffee a day, showed less signs of heart or other cardiovascular trouble. 

And I assume, of course, the study is mostly about straight-up coffee, maybe with milk and light sugar, rather than the more popular jazzed up variants like mocha or the newer tiramusi latte from Starbucks (which I do allow myself in indulge in once in a while). 

The research centered on the 3-5 cups-a-day cofee drinkers who were less likely to have coronary artery calcium deposits, which is an early indicator for heart disease. 

Jackie Chan Probably Regrets Selling His Soul to Beijing and Not The Devil

Source:  LA Times.

There was at a time when I liked Jack Chan.  Huge fan of his earlier work.  Every chance I got, I would rent from a local video store of his latest movies.  The guy was simply a brilliant actor and there was nothing like his style of comedic fighting.  And his hit it off pretty big in Hollywood with a string of movies like Rush Hour.

But his anti-American view surfaced just as China's economic might began to assert itself over his native Hong Kong.  Dude sold his soul to Beijing.  Become their puppet.  And of course, that did nothing to help him when his son was convicted of trafficking drugs.

It likely made things worse for him.  Beijing now had leverage over his career as well as the life of his son.

I had tremendous respect for the guy but once it became apparent the guy is a sellout, legions of fans including myself just can't stand the guy anymore.