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.

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

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 has to do with 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 law XYZ and smokers will be arrested and prosecute immediately.”  Two people smoking next to a policeman.  I tell him to do something, he asks them politely.  They decline.  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 switch from regular cigarettes to their new smoke free products.  Which they admit are not 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.  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 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 there.  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 straight out illegal monstrosities has been relatively well documented.  This new chapter 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.

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.

 

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.

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

Don’t buy a house on the beach in Greece after the 20th of August

If you think Greece has made progress in the past three years, you really should tell me how you get informed.  I need that sort of optimism and selective perception.  I live in Greece and I breathe with Greek businesses of all sizes, shapes and forms.  Things are much much worse than they were when we started these bailouts.

Corruption is not only endemic but in our face.  That is something not measured in the international lists of corrupt countries but it matters.  The rule of law is a joke when you combine corruption with delays in decisions.  Greek courts can ruin any business endeavor.  They do.  Every day.  The so called “ease of doing business” indicator hasn’t moved much.  But companies have!  Bulgaria, Cyprus or even Brexiting UK are preferred by Greeks starting a new business.  Tax regulations change all the time.  They even applied additional taxes retrospectively which is possibly a world first.  Greece has signed up to surpluses so ridiculous that taxing anything that moves, anything that doesn’t move and anyone even looking at the scene, is the only way to conform to the demands.

The population of Greece has been babyfed government handouts for many decades.   They pay those ridiculous taxes because they still have money stashed in various guides.  The young people that don’t leave the country are the ones hoping for a job in the public sector.   So we are left with the worse kind of employee.  Unless you are a tech start up that can get by with a few bright minds, you are likely to come out of job interviews wondering what the hell these kids are thinking; demanding high salaries but not willing to put in the effort or show any kind of flexibility.  Don’t be harsh on them.  They grew up in houses with two parents living comfortably from the public sector, essentially not working.  Whatever you offer them can never be as good as that!

We have one of the worse governments on the planet.  Pretty sweeping statement but I can back it up.  They sign laws to appease our debtors but these laws are not enforced.  Worse still, and the reason I claim the world title so easily, is the amazing way they use a pseudo ideological way to dismantle anything good, decent or productive in Greece.  You can’t call them “common thieves” because thieves are not so ignorant, nor so bold.  They haven’t even managed to proceed with obvious and easy privatizations, partly because of these schizophrenic pseudo ideological concerns.  You know this is investment hell when they can’t even sell off prime beach real estate (Asteras Vouliagmenis) or develop an ideal part of the city.  (Ellinikon)

Our infrastructure is pathetic.  Yes I know the roads are better than they are in Nigeria and we have a fairly stable electricity supply.  But as has been proved time and time again by our current government, they cannot reach agreements on major issues like privatizing the grid.  They can’t control labor unions which strike because they demand the right to continue destroying the environment with lignite abuse.  So our infrastructure was OK but whether it will be able to ever get to any next phase of development is doubtful.

Probably the best place to witness all the above problems together is tourism. That great hope. Probably what you thought of when you read the title. “Invest in Greece: get a house on the beach”. Sure, after you deal with the corruption, the spoilt locals, the crazy government and the lack of infrastructure.  All sorts of people will be asking for bribes or giving bribes on your behalf to speed up proceedings. Then you will discover that the neighbor built something right in front of your house, or cut off your way to the beach and there is nothing you can do about it. Then the government will impose yet another tax on your property, a tax you have to pay every year on top of the tax you paid when you bought it. Then you will wait for a decent internet connection, sort of get it, then it will be down again.

 

I don’t think you would spend even a small amount on buying a house on the beach if you looked carefully enough.  So who the hell is stupid enough to make a real investment in Greece?

 

 

Here is your first class action suite for GDPR (and why it is stupid)

As an experiment, I decided to ask Google to remove all my contributions to the Google Maps Local Guides scheme.  For those of you not aware, Google Maps uses volunteers to improve maps.  And we do a lot.  They have gamified the process, which makes me a Level 9 guide (of 10 levels) thanks to thousands of reviews, ratings and photos seen by millions of users that I have uploaded.  So what happens if I want to leave?

Joke No1.  Google itself, clearly says that you can delete your profile but your contributions will remain!  End of story, judge makes verdict, 4% of your global revenue please.

Joke No2.  It is not easy to even find what to do if you are not OK with the above Joke No1.  Suppose you look hard, you will find somewhere under legal a procedure.  So you fill in a form.  Already we are way out of GDPR, this is not easy or intuitive.

Joke No3.  Google doesn’t even have a human to respond.  Their first email is generic:

Thanks for reaching out to us!

We have received your legal request. We receive many such complaints each
day; your message is in our queue, and we’ll get to it as quickly as our
workload permits.

Due to the large volume of requests that we experience, please note that we
will only be able to provide you with a response if we determine your
request may be a valid and actionable legal complaint, and we may respond
with questions or requests for clarification.  For more information on
Google‘s Terms of Service, please visit http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS

Regards,
The Google Team”

Whoops!  Under GDPR, referring to fine print just doesn’t cut it.  Even if the judge hadn’t slammed the hammer and demanded gazillions before, now he can.
Joke No4.   Luckily for them, I too think GDPR is crap, so I respond honestly and fully.  Oh no, bot response again:

“Thanks for reaching out to us.

To request the blocking of URLs from Google Search results under European law, please use this form: https://support.google.com/legal/contact/lr_eudpa?product=websearch

If you need to send additional information in relation to your request, please respond to the email confirmation you receive after you send in the form. If you have already filled out the above form, your request will be processed shortly.

To request blocking of your personal information from specific Google products other than Web Search, please use the following form: https://support.google.com/legal/contact/lr_pir

If you need to send additional information in relation to your request, please respond to the email confirmation you receive after you send in the form.

If you have already filled out the above form, your request will be processed shortly.

Regards,
The Google Team”

This is pretty bad.  The bot didn’t even get it right.  So I send “This request does NOT concern blocking information.  The form you are sending me to is irrelevant.  Please get a homo sapiens to respond.” And the bot insists: “After reviewing your submission, we weren’t able to fully understand your request. If you send us more details to clarify your concerns, we will investigate further.”

Joke No5.
Luckily for Google, I am on their side, so I explain with plenty links.

“I am a Google maps local guide. Level 9 in fact. This means I have made thousands of contributions. However if I want to remove these contributions, there is no automatic way of doing it.Under GDPR this should be possible more easily. Manually deleting tens of thousands of comments, reviews and photos is not practical or even feasible.

I refer you to the discussion going on here
https://www.localguidesconnect.com/t5/General-Discussion/How-to-Exit-Local-Guides-Program-and-Delete-ALL-my-Contributions/m-p/934274#M264101

And here
https://www.localguidesconnect.com/t5/General-Discussion/Local-Guides-and-GDPR/m-p/926431#M259635″

Bot screws up even worse up the same rabbit hole:

To request blocking of your personal information from specific Google products other than Web Search, please use the following form: https://support.google.com/legal/contact/lr_pir

If you need to send additional information in relation to your request, please respond to the email confirmation you receive after you send in the form.

If you have already filled out the above form, your request will be processed shortly.”

Now, if you follow that last link, it is as unGDPR as humanly possible.  And it is off topic, it won’t even work if I request it like that.

I really need no further proof than the above emails to sue Google under GDPR.  Will it work?  Hell yeah!  Class action?  Easily!  Google has been pushing users on to Local Guides for ages, millions of Android users are on it already.  Will I do it?  Of course not.  GDPR is ridiculous, useless and bureaucratic for no reason.  Google Maps is useful and Local Guides wonderful.

This is a complicated world but useful trumps EuroBureaucracy every time.  Even well meaning European initiatives are counter productive when they are implemented like this.  A horse designed by a Euro Committee isn’t even a camel, it is a monster that can’t walk.  GDPR is not enforceable in any practical sense, it is simply the threat of a vindictive consumer.

This is a coup! How does Europe get the right to tell the internet what to do?

As the world watches him flip flop over major topics like migrant families and trade war threats, I have to grant Donald Trump a point.  Take all the nasty stuff he said about China on the campaign trail (before he started sucking up to Asian dictators) and apply it to the European Union.  Obviously GDPR has not yet played on Fox news and he hasn’t figured out what the European Commission just pulled off.  It unilaterally forced a ridiculous and extremely vague legal requirement on the entire planet!

“A Data protection officer (DPO)—a person with expert knowledge of data protection law and practices, must be appointed to assist the controller or processor to monitor internal compliance with this regulation.”  Wait a minute.  Just because a European citizen might click on my website, I have to hire some expert?  And worse still, I am not allowed to ban Europeans from visiting my website or to show them a different version?  Protectors of the internet should not be cheering GDPR, we should all be fighting it!  This is a coup, or #thisisacoup if you want to make it a trending hashtag.  You should want to if you care about the internet.

We have done our best to keep the internet free.  We fight for net neutrality.  And we are going to let some Euro-bureaucrats force vague and already technologically irrelevant regulation on the entire planet?  GDPR is not about tech, your IT people can’t make you compatible.  Neither is it a marketing issue.  GDPR isn’t even a legal issue.  How many lawyers do you know that understand databases or UI?  GDPR is 100% political.  Our national governments weren’t even asked, it is regulation instead of a directive.   European citizens didn’t even get the chance to see it ratified in national assemblies.  And – sorry to see this in writing – I am rather hoping Donald Trump notices some report on Fox news and helps us out this time around.

This is a coup.

GDPR is so stupid it is scary

I can picture the scene.  Some EU bureaucrat, on his low tech EU email client, had to go through the EU complicated way of reporting yet another viagra spam email.  “This has to stop!” he righteously  complained loudly to other EU bureaucrats twiddling their thumbs.  “I cannot receive that email I need from Nigeria because the damn system keeps thinking it is a fake prince sending it!”  The rest of us don’t know why they didn’t just use Gmail instead.    We hardly remember what spam is here in the rest of the world, because Google’s AI deals with it so effectively before it ever gets near us.

But the EU bureaucrat did what EU bureaucrats do.  He made a committee that started a process which made national committees which authorized funds to research a topic which needed researchers to hire more bureaucrats to end up with a massive nonsensical blurb which they eventually got other EU bureaucrats to vote for and announced to the world in what is easily the grandest proof of how far behind reality they all are.

GDPR is so broad in its scope it is legally practically trash.  The more you read “experts” analyze it, the worse it gets.  Since when can a legal requirement from one group of countries force the entire planet to do something?  If I, a euroloving citizen, travel to a remote tropical island with 50 inhabitants and one computer and the hotel there asks for my data without doing all the GDPR it needs in IT infrastructure and communicating, can I then sue them?  It seems I can.

For anyone with the slightest experience in IT and database infrastructure, the more you look at GDPR, the more you despair.    Because unlike the counter productive cookie banner which simply wastes a little time, GDPR was implemented using what looks like knowledge of current IT practices.  Some of those well paid committees and their well paid experts actually did some work this time and hashed together a semblance of what they think a modern IT infrastructure should look like.  Which is even more problematic.

This is a big planet and a “legal entity” is an extremely fluid notion.  You are reading a personal blog where I publicly air all sorts of complaints about things I see and don’t like.  Do I have to prove I don’t make money out of this blog?  What if you are subconsciously impressed enough to hire me as a consultant as a result of all this wisdom?  Sure there are enormous companies with legal departments and big IT clans.  Even those however have very different approaches to how they are organized both in terms of the role of marketing departments and in terms of IT philosophies.  And of course probably 99% of “legal entities” on Earth have no IT department and no marketing department.  Or if they do it is one person struggling to get the basics done.

I am really curious to see the first case of someone being charged under GDPR.  What sort of “experts” will be called upon and what sort of “standard” they will retrospectively demand.  “Sure, you used double opt in for the past ten years, but look, here on page 2536 of GDPR, clause 7d stipulates that….”  And then you will counter with by analyzing entries in your database from eight years ago.  And then some sort of IT wizard judge will be able to come to a conclusion?

If GDPR was designed to curtail Google and Facebook it is the most ridiculous and destructive indirect way to do it.  The EU can slap penalties on these companies anytime it wants to anyway.  It doesn’t need to cripple everyone else in the meantime.  If anything, Googlem Facebook and other big U.S. platforms will come out stronger from all this as millions of small companies will prefer to use their cloud infrastructure rather than try and figure out how to be GDPR compatible.    If GDPR was made in order to promote specific types of marketing and penalise others it is high time Euro bureaucrats crawled out of their holes and visited the real world.  Marketing has moved a long way since those Viagra emails only you keep receiving. because your email infrastructure was built by a committee.

The EU put up a nonsensical, needless roadblock to doing business in Europe.   Legitimate Nigerian princes with large inheritances will simply do their business somewhere else.

 

Facebook killed 14 people in May

That is what the headlines ought to be.  Not “A Facebook bug changed suggested sharing settings to ‘public’ for up to 14 million users“.  Think about it.  Assuming Facebook is telling the truth (and we have absolutely no way to know if it was 14 million, 140 million or all of Facebook affected) out of the 14 million there is an enormous probability that they affected users with serious legal, social or psychological problems.  Maybe a crazy ex wife, a stalker, a student or some other privacy problem which led a percentage of those affected to suicide.  In fact, based on the evidence accumulating scientifically, it is not entirely unfair to say that Facebook not only did it’s best to grab users with mental problems but also that it actively does its best to make those problems worse.

It is pretty safe to assume that Facebook didn’t release this information because of their new drive to honesty.  Even if it was only 14 million users affected (which I highly doubt), that is a lot of time wasting Facebook psychopaths online with the potential to uncover it.  Many of those are constantly checking other people’s feeds, gossiping and trying to find out whether their boyfriend saw that post about that other girl or not.  (And other such human micro drama.)  Facebook had to reveal the bug because a lot of people would have noticed and proved it’s existence.  A lot of the users it managed to make addicted during one of the many hours they spend aimlessly scrolling up and down their timelines and checking other people’s timelines.

Here’s one problem:  nobody can really check up on Facebook.  Here’s a worse problem: their infrastructure is terrible.  Here’s the real issue: Facebook remains the toy of an unbalanced teenage hacker at heart.

In many ways it is a self repairable problem.  Unlike other online tools, Facebook is a complete waste of time.  The company has specialized in providing inconsequential services.  It’s not helping you get to work.  It’s not giving you free document processing tools.  And it’s running out of ways to entice users to spend time on it’s useless, buggy, platform.

The Cryptocurrency backstory is all wrong

If you ask Google how many UK pounds you get for 100 US dollars you will get the result immediately.  Ask it to convert 10 0xBitcoin to FlorinCoin and you get nothing.  In fact you can ask Google pretty much anything about cryptocurrencies and it behaves like some dumb search engine would 15 years ago.  Which is peculiar.  Highly peculiar.

So CoinMarketCap took over as “the Google of cryptocurrencies”.  It has a similarly minimal design approach and a similar inclusivity with no questions asked.  Rather dodgy new currencies appear regularly, much like Google doesn’t interfere with results a lot.

But all this just makes things worse.  I clicked on Trending “Gainers and Losers” and saw a big list of cryptocurrencies gaining more than 100% even and on the “losers” pretty small losses for a few cryptocurrencies.  Of course the whole thing is doing well.  There are many (big) winners and few (small) losers.  Which is peculiar.  Highly peculiar.  When the site changed the way it calculated market capitalization it wiped billions off the crypto market.  This is a very bad version of a Google type monopoly in a market with no need to create such a monopoly.  Heck, in true crypto approach, attention should be blockchained away from any single such website!

It is all about the story.  I raved about the NBA making fantastic stories about everything.  I then (previous post) stopped watching the NBA all together because they betrayed me.  They lost the key element of all such stories: justice.  With blatant bad officiating all their other stories make no sense.  I don’t care anymore if LeBron is a fantastic athlete.  If he knows the matches are rigged and doesn’t speak up (or quit) he is part of the problem.

In a similar vain cryptocurrencies have always been plagued by a bad reputation.  Drugs, illegal activities, blackmailing schemes and bad movie plots.  And unless it changes its approach, CoinMarketCap is part of that problem.