Gorilla Glass vs. Sapphire

What would you expect from someone who sells Gorilla Glass? Brooke Crothers:

A Corning executive launched a blistering critique of sapphire crystal, used as a protective material for displays, on Tuesday. The subtext was obviously aimed at Apple.

Apple has invested heavily into sapphire production, and the iPhone 6 and iWatch are rumored to contain sapphire.

When we look at it, we see a lot of disadvantages of Sapphire versus Gorilla Glass. It’s about 10 times more expensive. It’s about 1.6 times heavier. It’s environmentally unfriendly. It takes about 100 times more energy to generate a Sapphire crystal than it does glass. It transmits less light which…means either dimmer devices or shorter battery life. It continues to break. I think while it’s a scratch resistant product it still breaks and our testing says that Gorilla Glass [can take] about 2.5 times more pressure that it can take…Sapphire on. So when we look at it, we think from an overall industry and trend that is not attractive in consumer electronics.

Reminds me of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer:

There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item.

Goodbye Zite

This is one way to eliminate the competition. Buy ‘em and shut ‘em down. Killian Bell:

Flipboard has today confirmed its acquisition of rival news reader Zite from CNN. The company plans to integrate Zite’s technology into its existing service, while Zite as we know it will be killed off.

End Of An Era

Remember when the floppy disk died? Blame 1998′s iMac. Now Apple is about to kill the SuperDrive (CD and DVD) Joseph Tsai:

Apple is expected to stop production of the 13-inch MacBook Pro in the second half of 2014 and will replace the product line with thinner models equipped with a Retina display.

Thin is in. So is distortion.

Apple sold 17.12 million Mac products in 2013, down 1.03% on year and the product line is the weakest among the US vendor’s businesses.

By any meaning of the word, the Mac is not a weak business. It accounts for half the profits in the entire PC industry.

Lifelogging Cameras

This is an idea whose time has come. No more ‘he said, she said’ arguments. Matt Baxter-Reynolds:

I’ve wanted a lifelogging camera for years.

Now I’ve had the opportunity to try one, I’m not convinced they are a good idea at all. In fact, I think we may need to ban them.

What happened?

The underlying problem of lifelogging cameras is that they essentially demand that you take photos of complete strangers. I would wager that walking up to a complete stranger and deliberately taking a photo of them would make virtually everyone reading this uncomfortable — yet, that is exactly what wearing a lifelogging camera means.

Let’s call this the Google Glass effect.

Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, Russia and Ukraine: Irony Much?

That Samsung would introduce a fingerprint security feature in the new Galaxy 5S smartphone was a foregone conclusion. Why? Because Apple introduced a fingerprint security feature in the iPhone 5S. Follow the leader is how the technology world works, folks.

Over the weekend I was treated to the major irony of U.S. government officials complaining about Russia taking over parts of Ukraine on trumped up reasons, all the while forgetting about the U.S. taking over Iraq on trumped up reasons barely a decade ago.

Irony much?

Russia must have its own military-industrial complex to feed.

Here’s another one for the funny pages. Google and Samsung have teamed up with Chinese smartphone makers Huawi and ZTE to complain to Chinese government officials that Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia will result in higher patent licensing fees.

Samsung, of course, has tried every which way but Thursday to charge higher licensing fees to Apple on FRAND patents (the kind that are setup as fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory to help grow a standard). Google, of course, appears to avoid patent licensing wherever possible, because, well, you know ‘software should be free.’

Irony much?

The real fear among Copycatland’s major shareholders, Samsung and Google, is that Microsoft might actually gain some traction in the smartphone and tablet arena, and then jack up the price of patent licensing that they probably wouldn’t pay anyway.

It’s only fair. Everyone knows how much Samsung and Google respect patents and intellectual property created and developed by others.

Hell Froze Over

Microsoft apologist Paul Thurrott on Microsoft vs. Apple.

First, Apple.

Apple is unique, for sure. Its margins dwarf any other player in technology. Apple’s customers are willing to pay more, and buy more frequently. They perceive a quality there, and it’s not entirely unwarranted. They see Apple as the BMW of the technology world, also not entirely unwarranted. Whatever the reason, Apple exists in a bubble and it’s a market no other player can touch. There is no Mercedes or Audi to Apple’s BMW. There’s just Apple.

And what of Microsoft?

I’m worried that this race for the bottom is exactly what it sounds like, a zero sum game in which Microsoft and its partners are shooting for big numbers (unit sales) but ultimately end up with little or nothing in the way of actual profits because the only big growth will be in a part of the market where profit is difficult. When PC prices steadily plummet, as they did with the netbook, there’s no rebound. You can’t convince customers to suddenly start spending more on these things… When you look at markets in which the products sell for next to nothing and keep going down, you have to worry for the future on the Microsoft side. You just have to.

It’s getting ugly down at the bottom of the food chain.

Apple: Most Admired Company. Again.

Apple topped the list of Forbes most admired companies. Again. Seven years in a row.

The Top 10:

  1. Apple
  2. Amazon
  3. Google
  4. Berkshire Hathaway
  5. Starbucks
  6. Coca-Cola
  7. Walt Disney
  8. FedEx
  9. Southwest Airlines
  10. General Electric

Samsung’s Galaxy S5: Shooting For Apple’s Crumbs

Samsung has given up trying to top Apple from its perch as the profit-owning premium brand, and is content with licking up the crumbs at the bottom of the smartphone market.

How so?

The Galaxy S5 tells the tale. Though Samsung stuffs in plenty of hardware specifications (more RAM, quad-core CPU, micro-USB 3.0, add-on SD card storage), the new S5 still follows Apple’s lead, and in some cases isn’t even playing catchup.

The GS5 has a fingerprint sensor that unlocks the phone and lets you buy products online. That’s much like Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5s which lets you buy products online. The GS5 has a health app which can take your pulse (heart rate) by putting a fingertip over the camera lens. That works much like the half dozen free apps on the iPhone App Store which do the same thing.

Outside of a few gimmicks here and there (I like the waterproofing, though), the GS5 is still a 32-bit CPU using a 32-bit Android OS, already a year behind Apple’s 64-bit A7 CPU and 64-bit iOS 7 and 64-bit apps.

In other words, Samsung is struggling to keep up with Apple in the marketplace. Yes, Samsung sells more phones than Apple, but the vast majority are cheaper Android-based smartphone knockoffs with little profit margin. The Galaxy S line doesn’t sell as many as Apple does iPhones, and Samsung’s profits are much less, too.

The problem here is that Samsung’s overall strategy isn’t working out too well. The company pitches itself as an innovator, a leader in the premium space (apparently where most of the smartphone profits are), but the public isn’t buying it, and Apple’s iPhone profits are nearly three times that of the Korean copycat.

Samsung is caught between the premium end of the market and the low-to-mid-range segment where competitors sell smartphones with similar features and functions at a lower price point. Samsung is being squeezed, and appears to be content to gobble up Apple’s crumbs before other competitors.

The Awesomeness of iCloud

First, what is iCloud? Alex Spencer:

iCloud is a suite of online cloud hosting and software tools available to anyone with an Apple ID. It is free, easy to set up, and practically a requirement for anyone that owns any iDevice. Yet, despite all of its awesomeness, iCloud remains severely underused.

Other than the fact that almost every iPhone, Mac, and iPad user uses iCloud. Sure. Underused.

Quantum Dots

Chris Smith on a new display technology that might debut in Apple’s iPhone 6:

Apple is putting extra effort in developing a screen that’s not only bigger in size, but also able to offer an improved visual experience, revealing that the iPhone 6 will make use of the same Quantum Dot (QD) technology found in the Kindle Fire HDX “but with an Apple twist.”

And what would said ‘twist’ be?

iPhone 6 will “deliver a much wider color gamut” than the Fire HDX, as Apple will not compromise on color gamut in favor of color reproduction accuracy like Amazon did. In addition to better colors, QD displays also require less power, can offer better brightness and improved lifetime.

Sounds like Apple, no?

Nothing Lasts Forever

Apple issued security updates for OS X Mavericks, Mountain Lion, and Lion, but not Snow Leopard (last OS X to run on PowerPC Macs). Gregg Keizer says one in five Macs vulnerable to attacks.

To Apple, Snow Leopard increasingly looks like Windows XP does to Microsoft: an operating system that refuses to roll over and die. At the end of January, 19% of all Macs were running Snow Leopard, slightly more, in fact, than ran its successor, Lion, which accounted for 16%, and almost as much as Mountain Lion, whose user share plummeted once Mavericks arrived, according to Web analytics firm Net Applications.

For my site, Snow Leopard users account for about 12-percent of all visitors.

Coming Soon: Free Hardware

In an era where everyone carries a smartphone with a video camera it makes you wonder why politicians and pundits say the crazy things they say. Someone is recording every word on Fox News so it can be played back and laughed at on The Daily Show.

Here’s a crazy one I’ll bet you did not see coming. Hardware will be free. Soon. So said Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates just about a month shy of 10 years ago.

Ten years out, in terms of actual hardware costs you can almost think of hardware as being free – I’m not saying it will be absolutely free – but in terms of the power of the servers, the power of the network will not be a limiting factor

Obviously, Gates’ predictions of the future are to be taken with a large grain of salt, all the more so based upon his abysmal record. He’s a soothsayer that the tech industry pundits listen to but give me a list of where his prognostications of the future have been accurate.

Crickets, right?

Even more obviously, free hardware isn’t in our tech gadget future, but the value of what we get for what we spend continues to grow.

Andrew Orlowski:

The electronics industry’s answer so far has been to add functions to existing devices – the merging of cameras and cellphones is a good example – or create new markets, while ensuring that the profit margins maintain future growth. Intel and Nokia can produce $10 chips and $30 cellphones, but can’t sell enough to justify current investment levels; which is why they prefer to sell $300 chips and $200 cellphones.

Hmmm. Doesn’t that sound much like Apple’s strategy of owning the premium end of a market segment and let everyone else fight it out to the death on the low end.

As a brief aside, note that Nokia is no longer the Nokia of 10 years ago, and Intel has almost no presence in the rapidly growing mobile segment made up of smartphones and tablets.

What’s happened to the personal computer industry in the post-PC era of mobile devices is more than interesting. Except for Apple, average selling prices of PCs and mobile devices has gone down so low that few manufacturers make any money.

One report indicated that last year Apple took just under 90-percent of all the profits in the smartphone segment. Free hardware might still be part of the future of mobile devices (note that Google and Amazon sell hardware at nearly the cost of manufacture in the hopes of gaining revenue on the backside with media sales, and advertising, respectively) but how long can manufacturers lose money in a vain attempt to make Bill Gates’ predictions come true?

Samsung sues Dyson for calling Samsung a patent copycat

After losing patent copycat infringement lawsuits to Apple, Samsung is worried about the company’s corporate image. Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Samsung’s apparent theft of Dyson technology:

Samsung had documentation to show it had been working its steering mechanism for more than a year, and the Dyson suit was dismissed on Nov. 21, 2013 — the same day a California jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple another $290 million for iPhone patent infringements.

Irony much?

Now Samsung has turned the tables… and is suing Dyson for “intolerable” litigation that has “seriously hurt its corporate image.”

LTE 4G Networks Worldwide

Charlie Osborne on Open Signals network tracking data:

The U.S. is performing poorly. Despite continual infrastructure improvements, OpenSignal says that average speeds have fallen 32 percent to 6.5Mbps, which is one of the slowest averages worldwide. The only country with even slower speeds was the Philippines at 5.3Mbps.

I laughed at the average download speeds of U.S. carriers compared to other countries.

Be Like Disney: Own The Brands

Kara Swisher on Facebook’s $19-billion purchase of WhatsApp:

It’s a little like deciding to be Disney, said one source, owning all the good content brands. If Facebook is Disney (by the way, its COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is on the entertainment giant’s board), then Instagram is the Disney Channel (the kids love it!) and WhatsApp is ESPN (everyone loves it!).

Is WhatsApp worth $19-billion (to be fair, it’s a cash and stock deal):

It’s a major bet for Zuckerberg and Facebook, and perhaps — given the stakes — not as expensive as the numbers seem.

That’s $42 per user. WhatsApp users pay $1 per year.

Office 365 At One Year

Ed Bott with the skinny on Microsoft’s cloud computing strategy.

Office 365 Home Premium, a subscription service aimed at consumers, debuted on January 31, 2013. In one year, it’s grown to 3.5 million paying customers, each shelling out $99.99 for a 12-month subscription that includes the rights to download and install the latest version of Office on up to five PCs or Macs, as well as 20 GB of extra online storage and 60 minutes of Skype calling time each month.

Do the math. Almost $350-million in annual revenue. Peanuts to Microsoft.

Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription service is nearing 2-million total. At $30 per month (average), that translates to $60-million in revenue. Per month.

Apple On Privacy: One Man’s Stingy Is Another Man’s Personal Privacy Advocate

You know you’re doing something right when the bad guys cry foul. Guess what? Advertisers are not happy with Apple (and Amazon). Why not? Both are considered to be stingy and won’t cough up the customer data that advertisers want.

Why not?

Apple runs iAds, an advertising service that works on iPhone and iPad. It makes money for app developers, which is a good thing. And, it’s not Google, which is another good thing. You see, to Google, you’re not a customer. You’re the product. At least, information about you is Google’s product, which they’re happy to sell to the highest bidder in the advertising realm.

Think about it. Google gives you free apps in exchange for your privacy, all the while culling and collecting information about you as if you were a Nebraska field used to harvest corn year after year.

Apple’s iAds division also sells advertising, and, ostensibly, collects data about users. How much data is collected? Where does that data go?

If advertisers are complaining that Apple has become notoriously stingy with that data, then Apple is treating their customers differently than either advertisers, and much differently than Google treats their users.

It’s good to hear that Apple has come down on the side of more privacy than Google or typical online advertisers, but more is needed.

Users want and need a privacy advocate. Is Apple up to the challenge?

To Google, personal data and advertising is their bread and butter, their daily livelihood (to the tune of about 90-percent of Google’s revenue and profits), and though the company has failed to innovate diversification into their business model, they will do anything to protect that revenue stream. Anything.

To Apple, despite offering substantial competition to Google on the iOS platform, advertising is an afterthought, a a forgettable blip on the decimal point of annual revenue and profits.

In an era where personal privacy has come under attack from many sides, Apple has an opportunity to step up and publicly declare an alliance with all who do not want to be tracked while online.

Apple, your move.

Apple Can’t Afford to Wait Until September

Another quarterback running the show from the sidelines. Ashraf Eassa:

Samsung’s next generation Galaxy S5 is the poster child for popular, large phones, but the competition from the likes of Motorola/Lenovo, HTC, LG, and others is intensifying.

Except the Samsung Galaxy S5 hasn’t been announced yet.

Apple is unlikely to be able to wait until September before it has to pretty aggressively cut prices on the iPhone 5s in order to maintain its market share at the high end.

Is there any indication (for example, sales figures) that Apple is losing market share in the premium segment?

Apple is going to need to “wow” consumers with a next generation iPhone in order to fend off the Android hordes from eating into its outsized portion of the smartphone industry’s profits.

Apple’s share of the smartphone industry’s profits have grown each year for five years, now nearing 90-percent.

Sigh.

Traffic Feud Slows Down Netflix

Larry Seltzer with more details on the Netflix-Verizon traffic feud.

Verizon argues to the WSJ that problems arise when a service puts out far more traffic than it receives, as would be expected of a streaming video service. Netflix recently announced that they have over 44 million members and it is clear that streaming video consumers a large percentage of Internet bandwidth.

So, who should pay for the disparity?

Verizon argues that such services should pay more to the companies that deliver their traffic. Netflix is arguing that ISPs should hook up to Netflix’s own CDN without any additional compensation. Both Netflix and ISPs argue to the WSJ over how efficient Netflix is at managing its own traffic.

This is tougher than it seems. Everyone pays someone to connect to the internet; either to receive traffic or to send traffic. If too much traffic hits one large network provider what can they do to protect their network and customers?

What Apple Knows That Samsung, Microsoft, And Google Do Not Know

Last week I read an article which pitted various tablets against the iPhone in a sort of battery life shootout. Which tablet won? Take a guess. Apple’s new iPad Air crushed the competition, with some Samsung models coming in dead last on both internet and video use tests.

What does that tell us about Apple?

Basically, battery life is one of those daily user experiences that Apple sweats over. Why? Because users want long battery life. One of my cubicle mates has a new MacBook Air which he uses when out of the office. It gets well over 12-hours on a charge.

With a little consideration for which apps get background processes and cellular usage, my iPhone’s battery lasts two full days (I’m not a gamer, though). Battery life is but one bullet point on a product feature page, but for Apple it’s an important one.

Here’s why.

Smartphone and tablet competitors need to differentiate their products from Apple’s iPhone and iPad. How? Usually, it’s a combination of lower price, and a larger, longer list of features.

For example, many smartphones have larger screens. The iPhone does not. So, those smartphones are advertised with a higher pixel density and screen resolution than an iPhone with Retina display. Forget the fact that the naked eye can’t tell the difference between an iPhone’s Retina display at 331ppi (pixels per inch) vs. say, new displays from Japan Display which weighs in at up to 543ppi.

Once a certain pixel density is reached, most smartphone users won’t be able to tell the difference, but all those extra and mostly useless pixels come with a negative side– they suck up battery juice.

It seems that Apple prefers to focus on features which are actually usable, rather than a list of features to make up a comparison chart. Apple knows that if the overall user experience is a good one, the company doesn’t need to play the tit-for-tat feature creep game.

Why doesn’t the iPhone or iPad have a replaceable battery? For most of us, there’s no need. For power users, there are plenty of add-on options. Why doesn’t the iPhone or iPad have an SD card slot or an option to add more memory? I may not be the typical average user, but I haven’t used an SD card for years. It’s just too easy to send files over the air these days. And, because Apple focused on making the iPhone’s camera the best on a smartphone, my Canon DSLR is gathering dust.

In the smartphone and tablet arena, Samsung, Microsoft, and to a certain extent, Google, play the traditional feature comparison game. Instead of creating a better user experience, each manufacturer adds more features to the list while cutting the price tag (to be lower than Apple). That results in products which cost less, yes, but don’t usually last as long, and often give the users a crummy experience, so, in turn, those manufacturers don’t sell as many products in the same category as Apple.

For the most part, Apple doesn’t play that crazy game, knowing that it’s a sure fire way to dig a company into a hole.

Love Stinks

Perfect for Valentine’s Day, Jason Perlow’s look at the worst mergers in technology industry history.

Valentine’s Day is here again, and love is in the air. Couples flirting, courting each other and forming relationships. And sometimes those relationships result in marriage.

In the tech world, much of the same types of things occur. And as with human relationships they also can end up in marriages — also known as corporate mergers. Mergers can result in the two parts being stronger than the whole, or they can end in utter disaster.

Love affair Spoiler Alert:

  • Caldera and SCO
  • Palm and HP
  • Oracle and Sun
  • AOL and Time Warner
  • HP and Compaq
  • Microsoft and Danger
  • Borland and Ashton-Tate
  • Novell and Unix
  • Google and Motorola

Apple and Samsung Fail to Reach Deal Over Patent Issues

Richard Padilla explains the obvious on the court ordered mediation between Apple and Samsung.

Cook met with Samsung mobile division chief J.K. Shin to discuss a possible settlement, but did not make any significant progress towards a deal.

Shocking, no?

The second patent infringement lawsuit between Apple and Samsung is set to begin on March 31, as Apple’s Chief of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller will be among the witnesses. Samsung will only have four patents claims to bring to the upcoming trial, as Judge Koh invalidated two of its patent claims last month.

Samsung on the ropes? No. Patent trial losses have had no impact on Samsung’s illegal activities. The courts are powerless and Apple becomes a victim. Again.

Apple’s Smartphone Monopoly

With tongue completely in cheek, Mac360‘s Ron McElfresh outlines Apple’s smartphone monopoly problem.

Only Samsung stands between federal government intervention and the breakup of Apple’s stranglehold on the smartphone industry’s profits. It’s a good thing Apple let Samsung copy the iPhone and iPad’s designs. Otherwise, with Samsung out of the picture, Apple would have all the industry’s profits.

Revealed: Apple Will Disrupt These Industries

Yours truly on where Apple is most obviously headed next. Industry Disruption 101:

Think wearable technology. Think healthcare devices. Think fitness devices. Think home.

Over the next couple of years Apple will march into a crowded field– fashion, fitness, and healthcare– and become the trend setter, a purveyor of devices for the fashion conscious, the health-minded, and the home. Within a few years of that, Apple is likely to own the lion’s share of the profits of those industries.

See? It’s déjà vu all over again.