Category Archives: Technology

Google is turning into Microsoft

“Or to simplify things (!!!): you’ll have Google Play, the online store with apps, movies, TV, music, books and NewsStand; Google Play Music for downloads you purchase; Google Play Music Key for on-demand streaming; and now YouTube Music Key for on-demand, streaming of stuff from YouTube.

Apparently, just calling the whole thing “Google Music” was not considered?”

-TechCrunch on Google’s new YouTube based music service.

Reminds me of this old gem:

 

Corrections in the Tech Industry

Two pieces of bad news for various tech companies recently. First, Samsung’s quarterly reports show lower quarterly income for the first time in two years.

This should be very concerning if you are invested in the Android ecosystem. Samsung rode the wave of being the “iPhone for people who didn’t want an iPhone”. But, they have never been great at innovation. Their “added” features aren’t valued by consumers.

So, they have to stand out through hardware. But at some point, other manufacturers can catch up with big screens and other specs. Then the only point of differentiation to an end user is the price. And Chinese manufacturers are already out-speccing Samsung and beating them on price.

For the end consumer, this appears to be a good thing. You will get hardware at cheaper. However, for manufacturers this means a race to the bottom. Consumers don’t appreciate small details and will just look for the cheapest phone. So, you use cheaper plastic. You start adding junk ware programs that are sponsored and the makers pay you to include.

All of this happened to the PC market years ago. No manufacturer could differentiate on features after a certain point. Plus, all the Operating Systems were the same, some flavor of Windows, just like all these phones run Android. So the only thing to do is go cheap.

How many of you enjoy using a 299 laptop? Exactly. But very few people justified buying a super expensive Vaio or Lenovo. Which is why both of those parent companies spun off those branches of their companies.

We are going to see more and more cheap devices and some fall out in the Android Phone industry as a result. Certainly, this means more wide adoption of Android devices, but how many of those users will buy apps, which support a flourishing app ecosystem? Its hard to make money giving away your product.

Second, Apple is selling fewer iPads that expected. This is a problem in that for growth, the company needs something to be the next iPhone. There are arguments about whether this is true – in that you can just keep updating iPhones, but for “investment” types growth is sexy.

I have an iPad, but I have also told almost all my friends they do not need one. The limitations are just too great to use it as a laptop replacement. The one-app-at-a-time problem is real. Think about your desktop right now. I bet you have more than one window open. You have your web browser, a mail client, a music player, probably a document/spreadsheet of some sort, and maybe a twitter client open.

Sure, you can have those running on an tablet, but switching between them is tedious compared to a laptop. And having both open to compare or copy/paste between is impossible.

I think many consumers hoped these tablets would be a cheap way to replace their laptop. Upon discovering the limitations, they quickly ran back to the computers, relegating tablets to third device status – behind their computer for productivity and their phone for always accessible updates.

My Android Experiment

Among my circle, I have a bit of an Apple fanboy reputation. Personally, I don’t  think its warranted, but I can understand the perception.

After buying the old school iPod in college, I slowly transitioned over. Purchasing the very first iPhone, and owning nothing but them since – through the 3G, 4 and now 5. Along the way, I picked up an iPad, and even traded in my trusty Lenovo laptop for a mac.

I am fully enmeshed in the Apple universe. But, I’d argue that is because of proven capability and reliability time and again. Each purchase justified itself and led to the next.

That is not to say I don’t understand the appeal of competing systems. I tried a Windows Phone for a bit. And there are plenty of people who do find the Android ecosystem superior.

Lately, I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my iPhone. Not an error necessarily, but an annoyance nonetheless. I cheaped out on my last iPhone – getting the 16GB version instead of the costlier 32 or 64 versions. Combine this with Apple’s insistence on not including an SD card slot, and I’m running into a problem.

I am constantly running out of space. And  not for reasons typically given. I don’t store a ton of music – instead streaming Spotify and Beats. And I don’t make the mistake of keeping all my photos on my device. I use Dropbox and Photostream to backup my pics. I have taken all the easy steps to relieve my situation.

Instead, I have an app addiction. I like keeping a lot of apps on my devices. It feels silly to me to have to re-download something when I want to use it, if I even remember it exists. Plus, there are data cap concerns. Most of the time this is fine. I download an app, and still have room.

But iOS apps have a weird problem. They store cached files, so you don’t have to download the same picture in Instagram 8 times, it stores it on the device. This means that even though the Instagram app is only 20MB, over time it balloons to over 250 MB for me. And all the major apps do this – Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and so on. Add these up, and it becomes a problem.

Android has a function built into the OS where a user can delete any application’s cache. However, iOS doesn’t trust the user to do this. In order to delete the entire app must be deleted and re-installed. Many times losing log in information, and just being a general drag.

See the difference in Instagram’s official instructions for “Instagram takes up too much space on my device”:

Apple iOS

The more you use an app, the more space the app takes up on your phone. If you use Instagram more than other apps, it’ll likely take up more space on your phone than apps you don’t use as often.

If you want to manually decrease the amount of space Instagram takes up, you can delete and reinstall the app. Your photos and profile data will be saved.

Android

The Android app may take up more internal memory than other apps on your phone because we cache photos. This makes the Instagram experience faster for you and conserves bandwidth, which means you don’t have to re-download photos over your carrier’s network.

  1. Leave the Instagram app

  2. Open the Settings on your phone > Applications > Manage applications > Instagram

  3. If you choose Clear data, your download cache will be cleared. Clear cache will reset the memory for the app.

So, I was getting frustrated. I felt like my experience was being ruined by having to constantly worry about space. Apple has an upcoming WWDC event where they are expected to show off iOS 8, and potentially some new hardware. I was able to procure an Android device for cheap without signing a contract, and thought this would provide a good opportunity. I could test out Android, see what new announcements come from WWDC and decide whether to jump ship or stick with Apple before the next iPhone comes out and I’m on another two year contract.

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Apple Passwords Sharing Across Keychain

Apple has this system of storing passwords and secure credentials called “Keychain”. It saves your passwords so you don’t have to keep entering them, and it is supposed to store it securely on your system so someone else who gets on your mac can’t access it without knowing your system password.

With iOS 7, Apple brought keychain to iOS for their iPhone, iPad and iPod devices.

From the way I understood it, this meant you no longer had to track passwords as any you entered in Safari on your computer would track to your phone. Neat.

Recently, I discovered it goes a bit deeper than that. I started at a new workplace. This meant getting my devices on new wifi networks. After I hooked up my iPhone to the employer’s wifi with their password, I turned on my iPad.

I was pleasantly surprised as my iPad was already logged onto the network! This was especially nice as my employer hates giving out passwords, and insists on entering them through IT. Ugh.

How this next part really blew me away. This week I brought in my macbook because I had to handle something privately, and wanted to do it on my own laptop during lunch. As I turned it on, I saw the wifi active! The macbook even had the stored password from the iPhone!

That is one of those small really nice things that make you appreciate an ecosystem, but doesn’t sound like much when you are trying to decide between iOS, Android and Windows.

facebook_paper

Facebook Paper Strategy

Facebook launched a new app today called “Paper”. Naming convention problems aside, it is a great little app.

Visually it is much nicer to swipe through than the traditional app. Pictures are huge, scaling off the screen. The motion gestures are natural, using swipes to bring articles to the front and throwing them away.

I really like it I’ve already replaced the traditional Facebook app on my homescreen with it. Plus, it seems to keep most of the main app’s features like messages and notifications. It does seem to borrow a lot from Flipboard, and people seem to be making a lot of that. But I don’t think that is the intent.

I think the real play here is chasing the ever elusive goal for Facebook – monetization. Of the many “feeds” you can scroll through in the app – only one is your Facebook news feed, containing  pics and status updates from your friends.

The remaining 10 or so feeds are “curated news feeds”. Picked by Facebook editors, they are news stories they think are interesting. How long until Facebook simply charges content creators to have prominent placement in those feeds?

Facebook has already gotten some scrutiny for allegedly burying normal status updates and instead pushing paid ads and content to users news feeds. The exact algorithm is hidden as a company secret, so who knows for sure. But ever declining numbers of interactions and likes have people raising eyebrows. 

Do I think you should check it out? Definitely. It is a better way to scroll through Facebook. Do I wonder what the long term effects of it on actually use of Facebook will be? Definitely.

OLED-vs-4K-tv

Will 4K TVs Take Off

CES took place this week. This year most of the attention seemed to focus on 4K televisions. 4K televisions offer twice the resolution of what we consider HD sets today.  They provide around 4,000 lines of resolution – compared to the 1080 high end televisions have today.

The question is will these 4K sets take off, or will they fizzle like fads of recent years such as 3D televisions.

I want to draw four similar tech innovations to discuss what will happen to 4K tech.

HDTV

A few years back, HD TV was the big thing. Americans had used the normal analog regular TV resolution for decades. A doubling of resolution was a welcome change. People really took to these new screens.

However, it could be argued that many people took to HD TV because the physical size of the screens changed too. We went from huge, heavy tube TVs to flat thin light LCDs. The format of the screen changed too, so people didn’t have to suffer with ugly letter boxing for a real theater experience.

4k TVs will have the same thing LCD tech, and isn’t moving away from the 16:9 format. I don’t think 4K will benefit from the frenzy that HDTV saw.

But what about the resolution doubling! Just like HD! I have had a certain experience, and I bet you will have had the same realization. I’ve gone to a (typically older, non-techie) relatives house who has an HD TV. Only, despite getting HD service from their cable provider, they still tune it to the Analogy regular standard def channels. And when you show them they “can’t see” the difference.

Again, my thesis is that it was not simply the resolution that spurred widespread adoption, but the physical change to the sets. 4K won’t benefit from this.

Blu-Ray

Blu Ray was the Home Video equivalent of the SD to HD tv upgrade. DVDs are 480 lines (the same as SD TV, who knew!?). Blu-Ray is 1080- HD quality.

However, Blu-Ray sales have not met the crest of DVD sales during their high point. I could make the same argument I make above – same format (similar physical sized discs, only resolution changes).

You could point out that perhaps people have just moved to different Home Video formats. Downloads perhaps. But this further plays into my thesis – change the physical measurements (in this case remove it!) or people don’t care. Resolution alone doesn’t move people.

3D TV

Yet another example of the physical size staying the same, and formats or features being added. And yet again, it failed to catch on.

3D TVs were the “next big thing” after HD TV. You could argue TV makers are tired of consumers only buying a new TV every 7 years, and look at the cell phone markets, so they want to add features that encourage you to buy more often. (see also: smart TVs)

However, people did not buy in. I’d argue it was largely because the glasses were clunky, sometimes need batteries, were expensive. And, if you had friends over, say for a Super Bowl party, they needed glasses too or the screen was unwatchably blurry. So, invest heavily or no one gets to enjoy it.

Retina Screens

This will be the exception to the rule. High resolution screens in phones caught on recently. They largely stayed in the same format (typically similar sized screens, and same ratios). However, they caught on like crazy.

Why? Was the improvement really noticeable – even among the crowd who doesn’t see the HDTV upgrade?

I think the argument is that the price stayed the same – there wasn’t a premium in phones to get the better screen, they simply replaced the older models. Further, people upgrade phones far more often, so they just got these by default. Both of these benefit from the fact that the cell phone market enjoys high turnover of new product purchases. Typically people have 2 year contracts vs the 7 year typical tv life.

So, can 4K TV enjoy the same benefit? Could manufacturers simply replace all HD offerings with 4K? I think people simply don’t buy TVs that often. And frankly, they don’t WANT to upgrade their TVs like they do their cell phones. Not when TVs cost 1000s vs the 200 of a new phone.

Plus, just because you buy the set, doesn’t mean the content will meet it. Cable companies have enough trouble with bandwidth for internet. It will likely be a while before they figure out how to pump 500 channels of 4k content to everyone in your neighborhood. At least not without giving you a really fuzzy bit rate.

And Home Video is no different. Movies at 4K are too large for today’s Blu-Ray formats. Do you want to buy a new Disc player too? Sounds like the problems of 3D tv all over….

Add in that the sets aren’t lighter or a different format and I think this is just another fad. I think you will find a few early adopters and videophiles who will upgrade, but I think most people will wait for 8K. No one wants to upgrade to 4k if they hear another upgrade is just a couple more years down the road.