Categories
Technology

Why do Pixel phones exist? (and how they just hurt Apple in revenge big time)

I never cease to amaze how wrong tech writers get some things. For years now I read about how Google has failed with Pixel phones, “never quite got it right”, “hasn’t got market share” and other such comparisons with companies that are nothing like Google.

Pixel phones were never meant to sell a lot. That would be suicidal. Google is not a hardware company. (Yet) And if it becomes one, it will not be from selling phones that the profits will come. Google sells ads. Everything else is an enticing freebie. To get you to buy ads.

Case in point, Android. The dominant superpower of smartphones globally. Unless you live in a bubble in the West Coast, New York ….or the magazines and tech blogger world. They write about a company with less than 1/10th of the market share globally, as if it is an equally powerful opponent. It is a rerun of the PCs vs Mac “wars” of the past. Again, a completely insignificant market share of Macs was held up so antitrust authorities and whoever doesn’t like monopolies could pretend Microsoft had an opponent.

But Google needed to find a way to control the ecosystem. They tried Nexus, they tried Google One (Google Go, whatever) and they tried Google Pixel. They don’t want to sell million of phones. They want to sell just enough to goad the rest of the market in the right direction. Everyone now talks about a “clean Android” experience as a major selling point. Bloatware on Samsung and other market leaders has gone down dramatically. You are either with Google or …well, with Google but they let you add a twist here and there in case you come up with something innovative.

Enter the Pixel3a. Now that is something different and mysterious. So far they artificially kept Pixel prices high so as not to antagonize other Android manufacturers. Here we have a different story. This is revenge. The product launched just as Tim Cook had decided to make privacy a major selling point on iOS. And with the launch of one device, Google kicked him back in the groin. Just as millions of iPhone users are wondering if it is worth spending 1000 bucks on a new device, the Pixel3a offers premium everything at 400.

Google will not pursue it further. You can be sure that there will be problems with availability and all the other excuses they have used in the past years to purposely stop Pixel and Nexus devices from eating up market share from Google’s Android partners. Tim Cook seems to be backing down on his privacy-based effort to differentiate Apple products. If he doesn’t, Google can easily wipe more value off his company by launching a Pixel 4a or shelling out Amazon Prime day offers for the 3a at 300 bucks or whatever it takes to demolish all that magic dust Apple took years to rub onto their overpriced devices. Google doesn’t even need to make another mid-priced phone. They have just officialized the category. Xiaomi and other manufacturers can now capitalize on it.

It is a great example of how a company loses focus and fails. Apple is too big to fail of course, more an international currency than the dollar. But some of us, in times like this, get a glimpse at just how well a behemoth such as Google can play the monopoly game with style.

Oh, and grab a Pixel 3a, it really is a stunning device for that sort of money.

Categories
Technology

The retards over at Apple

I am pretty sure that word gets all politically correct bells ringing so let me explain: it took Apple users almost a decade to figure out how useful wireless Bluetooth is. They are permanently retarded in their adoption of technology, always waiting for Apple to tell them what to do, like well schooled, but ignorant, infants.

I remember thinking this about a decade ago when I was excited about my Gear4 Bluetooth headphones. They had A2DP and I know this nerdy acronym because back then I had to mention it and insist at stores while I explained that A2DP meant stereo Bluetooth basically. Ten years ago.

Yesterday I listened to the New York Times popcast about AirPods. I pitied them. These are highly intelligent people, writing for the peak of global media, influencing millions around the world. And their list of excuses was pathetic. “Sure the sound quality is not good but I don’t listen to much music really” or “it is ok for calls and music is just for drowning background noise for me”.

It got even worse while discussing the planned obsolescence. “Yeah, they will probably die one day after their warranty” or “it is cheaper to buy new ones than repair them”. These people are resigned to Apple like some sort of tax. One poor woman bought a pair that didn’t work and then bought another pair which also didn’t work with her phone! Is that the definition of a hopeless loser or what? Almost everyone agreed that the AirPods look horrible, geeky or just plain stupid, one hides them under her hair.

Worse still, the only positive they could think of about the specific devices was the “seamless experience”. This refers to the fact that Apple, as usual, didn’t follow Bluetooth properly but tweaked it. Bluetooth has been around since 1994 and the A2DP profile mandated the use of the SBC audio codec as a minimum, rather than enforcing the direct transfer of other audio standards like mp3, mwa, and aac. Even though these are supported, the teams making protocols try to get everyone aboard so consumers don’t need to worry about incompatibilities. Unless those consumers are retards of course.

While I was enjoying my wireless headphone Bluetooth freedom these past years, iPhone users waited for Apple to “reinvent” the accessory. Apple has a tiny percentage of the smartphone market, yet in their little bubbles, the users think they are advanced. The entire planet moves along without them. Retarded. Sorry, no better word to describe the pathetic bunch of people that slavishly follow the Apple path to a walled garden dead end.

Categories
Business Technology

Huawei ban is a joke and so is the cheap Pixel

You just don’t get it, do you?

The tech world also has cliches. And if you have been around long enough they stand out. Apple as an opponent is a big one. When Microsoft ruled the world, they made it look as if a company with less than 7% market share was the opponent. That way they could pretend not to be a monopoly.

Google is copying that strategy. Inundating us with ads comparing the new, affordable Pixel to an iPhone. Yeah, right, sure, anything you say. Android is running billions of phones all over the world while iPhones are relevant only in a few countries or even cities. Or maybe just the posh neighborhoods within those cities. Google owns the AI, the data and the tech. Apple is buying up 2 companies a month trying to catch up as always.
Google does not even want to sell many Pixel phones, they never did. Pixel phones are just a way of kicking the rest of the Android ecosystem in the butt. The cheap Pixel is also a shot across the bow at Tim Cook for him talking crap about privacy.

There is of course absolutely no justification for what Donald Trump did to Huawei. Not that the Chinese are not terrible at stealing intellectual property and ripping off stuff. They are also likely to be trying to spy on us through their tech. But hitting Huawei is no solution. Why not Xiaomi too? Or any number of other Chinese manufacturers for that matter. And why just tech? They copy, steal and might be up to nasty spying with all sorts of other things they produce. Maybe even toys. Apple and Google met with Trump. He made them both promise to spend gazillions on new offices so that he could talk about new jobs in America. That is how it works.

Donald Trump does not understand what the late great master of propaganda Steve Jobs and his teacher Bill Gates knew well. His heavy-handed approach and erratic moves to please either his corporate friends or Russian blackmailers are ruining the facade so carefully built over many years.

Running a monopoly is not the hard part. Pretending it is not a monopoly is the real game.

Categories
Technology

The incredible power of not seeing what you don’t like anymore

Sometimes as I tidy the house or while looking for something else, I find something the kids have made.  These days it is mainly my ever creative daughter. It is often touching. So I might stand there with a little “i love u dad” note in my hand crying.  It isn’t the joy of parenthood I think, it is the surprise reminder of how strong emotions run within us, a pent up bottle of fizzy information we keep forgetting.

Like many other NBA fans, this year I stopped watching.  Somewhere between the Warriors’ dominance and LeBron not making the play offs I lost motivation to spend any more of my precious time following the NBA.  Bear in mind that this is the business I have help up as a shining example to follow. The best storytellers in the world, what marketers should emulate, God’s gift to all of us.  I have written articles, analysis and done podcasts telling everyone to follow the NBA and analyse its every move. I honestly believe it is not only the best sport to follow but also the best organization and media savvy institution to analyze and learn from.

But I have had enough.  I need to move on. So I want to cut out the NBA in order to learn something else.  If I am watching live matches when I wake up at 4am (Greek time), I am not reading a new book.  And this is when I realised how much power these new tools give me.

I just tuned the NBA out of my life.

First of all I went to google settings and removed it from my interests.  That pretty much solved a lot of the ways scores popped up on my phone. Same with news, I just removed the topic from the (excellent) Google News app.  “Not interested”. It didn’t even feel like a major ceremony, two taps and it was gone. YouTube needed a little more help and guidance. I had to tell it I wasn’t interested in 7-8 videos and then click to remove the channels.  Sorted.

For someone deeply immersed in everything NBA for the past 2 years it was surprisingly easy.  I feel like one of those people who quit smoking and then say “oh, it was just a decision”. Only it is even easier.  The NBA simply doesn’t exist around me anymore. Unless I walk into a sports bar and it is playing on the TVs, or some friend posts about it, I simply don’t see it anywhere.  The equivalent for my savana dwelling ancestors would be to tap twice on a baobab tree and make all baobab trees instantly disappear from their line of sight.

We read enough complaints about our digital world, how we are inundated with information, much of it useless or confusing.  Here is my – very real – objection. Never in the history of homo sapiens have we been able to control our informational environment as much as now.  What many consider a disadvantage , the fact that I check my phone a million times a day, the fact that Google owns me, all this is simply fantastic when you are ever so slightly disciplined enough to tell it what you want to see around you.

It is also very exciting.  Can’t wait to learn something new.  And as my kids grow up and stop surprising me with notes around the house, I am pretty sure the rest of this vibrant digital planet will do something similar for me.

Categories
ART Society

Public Letter to Mr Joan Cheese of the Montipaithonz

That is not a spelling mistake in the title. That is very likely how the Greek Prime Minister might refer to you. Much like when you were eight years old at Peter’s Preparatory School, Weston-super-Mare, at your first public appearance you will wonder how he might have known that your family surname had once been Cheese. But no, it is simply that he is a total and absolute idiot. And it isn’t even funny.

Your public appearance this year in Greece cannot be a coincidence. Please don’t die before September. We need you. When this government first appeared, it was Monty Python sketches that saved our sanity. As they demanded we leave the European Union we watched “what have the Romans ever done for us?” Again and again. Pretending it couldn’t be real, that they couldn’t be serious. You often say that slapping people with fish was so funny because it was silly. But that would involve a person of intellect actually knowing it is silly. Our government can’t tell the difference. We are living in a hotel run by Manuel and prime minister who doesn’t even ask “¿Qué?” as he is heavily sedated by drugs in order not to have public breakdowns.

It cannot be a coincidence that you announced you are leaving Britain forever just at the time that most sane Greeks with an IQ above 3 also gave up on their country. It has become a natural filter of sorts. Anyone that can leave, leaves. What remains is a nation of Archie Leaches seduced by Wanda our magic prime minister, caught with our knickers down and suspenders, hapless and hopeless. You stole a three inch submarine and we live in a country where only one crooked politician went briefly to jail for commissioning a crooked real submarine and pocketing a few million for his troubles.

Before your first TV appearance, at that studio at Shepherd’s Bush you write that you wanted to have a heart attack. Here in Greece we often wish for such a swift death “to have a nice quick heart attack and be done with it all”. But we didn’t. And you didn’t.

I am not even sure that it would help at all if you organized a Secret Policeman’s Ball or put all your wits in the service of helping Greeks understand the utter stupidity of our political situation. When you first attended group therapy with Robin Skynner and his wife Prue you said it that “it made most film and TV drama seem pale, artificial and unconvincing by comparison.” Well welcome to Greece John, you are about to push it up a notch!

Categories
Business Technology

Google and the Golden State Warriors: similar approach

As I watched the champions get annihilated by the Raptors this morning over breakfast I had yesterday’s Senate hearings in mind.  Steph Curry only got 3 out of 12 but didn’t look worried.  Much like Sundar Pichai yesterday.

Here’s what happened NBA-side in summary:  The Warriors gathered not one, not two but five All Stars.  These people are basically statistical outliers, freaks that make a difference when it matters.  There have been maybe a hundred such homo sapiens since basketball started and the Warriors have five.  So they dominate.  They dominated so badly last year that a lot of us were put off the game.  So what did the NBA do about it?  For starters they tweaked the schedule to help the Lakers just to keep up the LeBron narrative.  A bit like the stock market pumps up Apple every so often even though Apple has hardly no technological advantage.  Just so it looks like Google has a competitor.  Then they tweaked the rules to help teams that play in the paint.  Then they gave refs instructions on how to execute the rules so as to give the Warriors a harder time.  Not to get too technical, but the NBA did everything it could to make this years championship more fun.  They even asked the Warriors to tone it down.

It is pretty similar to the Google situation.  The company has created not just 5 but an almost infinite number of All Star technologies.  Worse still, they have tools that ensure they stay ahead of the pack.  They just need to choose when they will uncover what.  Not to look too good, that will increase calls for regulation and intervention.  The Golden State Warriors are following this example.  All year they bench key players with phony excuses to rest them, or simply play as if it is practice.  They don’t even use their best game plays all year unless they need them.  Maybe one or twice here and there, like…well, like a Google experiment.

Is this bad?  I have written about the Google monopoly since Google started and my position is the same.  It is the kindest dictator we could ask for.  I would much rather Google decides on major issues than Donald Trump or most other politicians.  Is it fair?  Business was never fair.  Should we change it?  I don’t see how and to be honest I don’t see why.  Much like the NBA, maybe tweak the rules a bit so that it is more fun to watch at least…

Categories
Business Communication Technology

Apple is not about tech so stop judging it as if it was

“So, seriously Alex, do you think Apple has a problem?”

Financial analysts call me up some times for “insights”.  It is usually when their job is on the line and/or they have to handle a really really big investor.  The guy was worried and wanted me to give him something new to say in the big meeting, something none of the others in the office had thought about.  And he came to the right place.  I hate Apple, I have hated Apple since 1981 when I realized how little the company cares about technology.  So the analyst got some dirt and we chatted away.

“OK, so I will tell them to buy Apple then” he concluded.  I didn’t disagree.  Because this is not about technology.  Apple had the smallest research and development budget for many years.  Apple has fallen way behind in artificial intelligence and the smart home.  Apple’s new computers are a joke that took years coming and isn’t even funny if you are a professional that relies on them.  No, this is not about technology.  It is about the stock market.  Apple is to stock what the dollar is to global currency markets.  And all it needs to do every so often is produce a fairy tale.

Take the recent iPad launch.  This is a a truly insignificant dying sector.  About 4% of devices sold globally are tablets.  Apple has a third of a market nobody wants.  Apple is losing ground in education, medical and pretty much any vertical you want to pick.  But what are the analysts saying?  Every so often someone flashes that graph about revenue being too dependent on the iPhone but then they forget it like the Apple fan boys and girls they rely on in the media for information.

So don’t call me about Apple anymore.  You don’t need my decades of experience in tech to guess what Apple will do next and how successful it will be. Tim Cook could present a half eaten moldy apple and sell it for a thousand dollars tomorrow.   Nobody would care if he only sold five of them at a loss.  Nobody cares about it working or actually helping somebody in the real world work.  Antennagates, Batterygates and even Bill Gates knew what he was doing when he saved Apple.  It was never about tech.

.

(That’s not an apple in the photo by the way.  But who cares?)

Categories
Business Communication

Advanced marketing:A tobacco company sponsoring a smoke free future

It appeared in my Facebook timeline and took me by surprise.  A Greek island is aiming to be smoke free.  Nice initiative.  Nice touchy feely video and all.  Oh, wait a minute.  It is sponsored by Philip Morris.  How does that work?

I mean seriously.  How do we allow that to work?

The first set of problems are the legal issues.  In Greece nobody enforces smoking laws.  People smoke everywhere.  I was in court recently sitting under a sign that read “smoking is prohibited by XYZ law.  Smokers will be arrested and prosecute immediately.”  Two people were smoking right under the sign and next to a policeman.  I asked him to do something.  He asked them politely.  They declined.  End of story.  So is Philip Morris going to pay for better policing?  Of course not.

Which brings us to the second set of problems.  When they say “smoke free” they don’t mean that they will help everyone quit.  They mean they will help you switch from regular cigarettes to their new smoke free products.  Which even Philip Morris admits have not been proven in any way to be better.  In their words: “Studies on our most advanced smoke-free product, IQOS, are progressing rapidly and the results are encouraging.”  So they are pushing people from one of their products which we know for sure is bad for you, to another one of their products which we don’t know yet.

The third, very glaring problem, is the selectivity of it all.  Funnily enough in Greece they recently passed a strange law against vaping products without nicotine.  It is almost as if someone bribed law makers to bend laws in their direction.  No, wait, that is the sort of thing that happens in films.  For example films depicting what the tobacco companies did in the past in fact.

And of course there is a fundamental, logical problem.  Philip Morris is in the business of selling products for smoking.  “We’re dedicated to doing something very dramatic – replacing cigarettes with the smoke-free products that we’re developing and selling.”  That  is the closest you get to a mission statement.  So they are not are not actually going to help the inhabitants of any Greek island reduce smoking.  They just want to get visitors and locals to switch to their products.  This would be acceptable maybe as a step in the right direction if:

a) we were sure it is better for your health and

b)if they did it all around the world. 

 

But of course in other countries where they can still sell traditional cigarettes, that is what they sell.  They are lying in your face and not even holding crossed fingers behind their back.

The history of American Tobacco, their lies and deceits and illegal monstrosities has been relatively well documented.  This new chapter in their history emulates Donald Trump’s sheer audacity in lying straight to your face but makes it worse but applying a veneer of do-goodery.  A tobacco company paying a municipality to pretend it is doing something about a public health problem when in fact it is just giving free reign to Philip Morris to sell and promote their products like crazy all over the island.

 

It would be great if there was someone that could do something about it.

Categories
Business Society

Apple is gay.  But not as gay as the world needs it to be.

When Tim Cook came out to the media as gay I was not surprised.  We all knew that Apple products were disproportionately favored by gays.  The statistics occasionally cropped up and then disappeared in a very…Apple sort of way.  A very “gay” sort of way in fact if you wanted to use a crude and unfair generalisation in terms of stereotyping 5-7% of the world population and the richest corporation in the history of homo sapiens.  Interestingly enough that is about the market share of Apple products globally. (If you add smartphone and computers it may be a bit less but both kind of statistics are really hard to nail with any precision.)  Apple is the perfect demonstration of how hypocritical a gay CEO can be when he is the one in a position of power.

 

We don’t know exactly how many people on the planet are homosexual.  And to be honest, we shouldn’t really care. I have walked Gay Pride marches enough to know that all my gay friends, and the friends of their friends are a fantastically varied collection of human beings.  In fact I don’t even think classifications help. There is no “gay meter”, human sexuality is a wonderfully complex thing, nobody is completely “straight” and what people fantasize about or do in terms of their sex life is nobody else’s business.  It shouldn’t even be mentioned in business.

 

Oh wait.  Actually it is.

 

One of the biggest, most consistent and absolutely fair demands of all of us who believe in equal opportunities, is the push for fair pay.  I want my daughter to get paid as much as a man when she works doing a similar job. Hey Siri, is this true in Apple regarding gay employees?  Hmmm…no response, eh? I want my kids to grow up in a world where we don’t need quotas in upper management. Hey Siri, are there disproportionately more gays in Apple?  Siri won’t tell you.  Apple won’t tell you. It is their right after all not to tell you.  But why is nobody asking? We ask about all sort of other groups of people.  We do our politically correct best to help minorities of every kind.  We read and write about how a corporation needs a coherent mission and values.  If Apple is more camp than others why is not openly projecting it?

 

It seems rather impressive that we can #meToo ourselves until we are blue in the face and turn a blind eye to this opportunity.  If Tim Cook was a Yankees fan, when he met the President of the USA, we would read “and they joked about the game”. If the CEO of the richest corporation in the history of humanity was married to a woman we would probably see her at his side there too.  Through a combination of good timing and the all powerful Apple PR machine, since he bravely came out openly as gay however we have heard almost nothing.  A few carefully planned and executed, possibly paid for, high profile, profiles about it then. And since? Is Tim Cook in some way obligated to bring up LGBT issues since he has the ear of the world?  Should he be doing more?

 

Of course it is a personal choice.  And he should have the right to a private life.  Other CEO keep their families away from the media.  But the case of Apple and Tim Cook is a remarkable demonstration of the limits of selective political correctness, the limits of #metoo type of approaches and our extremely hypocritical approach to demands for transparency and “the truth” about our world.

 

Categories
Business

Television is dead. And nobody goes to trade shows. So why is everyone at IBC again?

It was almost two decades ago.  After a dozen times at the International Broadcasting Convention I felt ready to summarize the trends and predict the future.  “TV and the internet are linked forever now” I pronounced as if I had discovered a new continent.  Checking out the trailer for my then TV show summary, other than cringing at the old fashioned editing and abuse of transition effects, it is impressive how little has changed.

Television is a “traditional” business.  We are right to make fun of so many things about it which don’t change.  It is true that young people have moved away, relying on YouTube, Twitch or Netflix more.  But take it from an analyst who has often used click-baity “X is dead” titles.  Television will never die.  Neither will Facebook which many people enjoy attacking for the drops in younger audiences lately.  In fact, unless we wipe Homo Sapiens off the planet, nothing will “die”.  It will simply adapt.

And that is why IBC is such a great show.  Constantly changing and looking for the new angle.  If you want to call it “media” instead of “television” shoot away.  “Digital cinema” instead of “the movies” yeah, whatever.  You will always need something we now call “content” and you will always need people and technologies to make it, convert it, cut it up, promote and distribute it.   Unless you want to lock down on a specific angle, as long as people live and communicate, there will be a thriving party at Amsterdam or wherever these people meet to discuss how to move ahead in their craft.

Let television and this trade show be a lesson to all of us.

.

The www.amydv.gr team will be at Amsterdam in force as usual this year.  Get an agenda, do the business.