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Tales from the Orchard: Apple’s retail challenge

An increasingly complex relationship with public spaces

 

By Michael Steeber of 9to5Mac

“We will know we have done really great if it feels like a town square,” explained Apple’s SVP of Retail Angela Ahrendts in May 2016. Ahrendts was specifically referring to Apple’s flagship Union Square store in San Francisco, but the goal was part of a broader initiative to reimagine the experience of all Apple retail stores.

With more people shopping online than ever before, the success of the town square strategy is critical to Apple’s continued relevance in a changing space where other well established brands have struggled. Yet even for Apple, the road hasn’t been without bumps. The push to move closer to the hearts of communities is increasingly met with skepticism and even hostility from residents. Apple is faced with a significant and growing long-term challenge that it will need to tackle in order to fully realize its retail strategy.

Town squares have been revered meeting and trade spaces since ancient times, so it’s no surprise that any changes to their fabric evoke strong feelings from communities. As public commons, these spaces reflect the values, priorities, culture, and preferences of those that occupy them. In a contemporary context, Apple and popular culture are inseparably bound by the ubiquity of iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. This makes Apple’s pitch for modern-day town squares relatively straightforward: help people get more out of the lifestyle they’ve already embraced by providing spaces to meet up, learn, and get inspired.

If only it were that simple.

In each new city where Apple attempts to establish a significant contemporary store – typically adjacent to public space or inside a culturally notable building – a pattern of resistance is emerging. While every case is as unique and nuanced as the cities themselves, the broader sentiment is the same: citizens are wary of Apple’s reach.

At a time when advertising and branding proliferate every corner our digital lives, perhaps Apple is simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. Residents may see allowing a new store as the surrender of their last sanctuary from commercialism. But commercial presence around cultural centers is far from new. Chicago’s Millennium Park is just three blocks from the city’s largest shopping district, the Magnificent Mile. New York’s Central Park is home to several upscale restaurants. Quasi-public facilities like sporting venues are routinely named after large corporations, and urban public markets have been embraced by communities of all sizes.

“Some people may rejoice that they will have access to such a beautiful piece of architecture, but others will be clearly out of place,” writes Carlos Carmonamedina, a Washington D.C.-based artist, referring to Apple’s ambitious plan to restore the city’s historic Carnegie Library. Critics have argued that allowing a retail presence inside the library building, set to open later this year, undermines the original intent of the space as a public facility for learning. Apple’s answer is Today at Apple, a series of educational and community-driven sessions held at every store around the world. While the sessions are free and open to the public, signing up to attend still requires an Apple ID, and with the exception of live performances, getting the most out of a session often requires having your own devices.

Louder but sometimes less articulate are concerns raised over Apple’s proposed flagship store in Melbourne’s Federation Square. The project would be one of the company’s largest retail investments to date, placing a store not adjacent to public land, but on it. Construction would also come at the expense of the Yarra building, home of the Koorie Heritage Trust and numerous historic artifacts, all of which would be relocated. Apple says the proposal will improve the visibility and accessibility of the nearby Yarra River. The concerns of Melbourne citizens are justified, but difficult to parse amidst a wash of impassioned arguments that often devolve into attacks on Apple’s products and practices rather than the project itself.

Much of the momentum against Apple in Federation Square has been spearheaded by the “Our City, Our Square” movement, a campaign organized by Citizens for Melbourne. Last week, Apple revised their plans for the square after several months of continued unrest. Despite receiving approval from Federation Square’s original architect, the design changes have so far done little to quell the concerns of detractors, indicating that disapproval is less about the store’s architecture and more a matter of principle. Citizens of Melbourne did not respond to a request for comment.

In Sweden, a similar situation is unfolding. Apple and architecture firm Foster + Partners have revised renders depicting a retail presence at the head of Kungsträdgården, a historic park in Stockholm. Initial plans for the store were deemed too large and disruptive for the square. Even after redesigning the building with a more subdued footprint, nearly 80% of over 7,500 people surveyed in a recent Swedish poll viewed the store unfavorably.

“Personally, I think it would be a huge step up aesthetically from the (TGI) Friday’s restaurant that currently occupies the space, but I do think there could be even better use of the location than an Apple Store,” Stockholm-based software developer Andreas Hassellöf told me. In early July, public consultation began on the project, with hopes to facilitate similar civil discourse about the best use of the space.

Even Apple’s newly completed amphitheater in Milan, Italy has not gone without criticism. An unfavorable review in one Milanese newspaper called the store “an invasion.” Built underneath the historic Piazza Liberty, the space was formerly home to the Apollo Cinema.

In cities where town square-format Apple locations have already been established, communities have embraced the stores warmly, dissolving initial skepticism. Apple Michigan Avenue has quickly become an architectural destination and photography landmark in downtown Chicago. Apple Williamsburg in Brooklyn routinely draws crowds to star-studded live performances. So why are new projects so polarizing?

Apple’s earliest stores received little criticism, since most conformed to standard storefronts inside existing shopping malls throughout the United States. Even later and more ambitious projects were generally well received, with only a few exceptions like “there goes the neighborhood” concerns over New York’s Upper East Side store. Apple’s retail projects have long been lauded for their careful restoration and painstaking attention to detail.

Even the idea of Apple retail functioning as a gathering place isn’t entirely a new concept. Stores like Puerta del Sol in Madrid and Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona bordered public areas long before the rollout of Today at Apple. Widespread skepticism didn’t begin until Apple started explicitly promoting their stores as modern community hubs. A new wave of negative press coverage lamenting the privatization of public space followed when Angela Ahrendts used the words “town square” during an Apple keynote. Customers hear a message that Apple is trying to replace, not complement their cherished public spaces.

Misaligned expectations may also contribute to skepticism. Anyone who has been to a contemporary Apple store with the latest design elements, video wall, and Forum will immediately recognize how dramatically different the spaces feel compared to “classic” locations. But in Australia, only one store has been refreshed with the new design. In Sweden, none. Globally, only around one fifth of all locations can offer the full Today at Apple experience. Without visiting a new store or taking a Today at Apple session, it’s difficult for concerned citizens to form an accurate picture of how Apple will impact their community.

“Gadget store can’t be the best possible use—not in the District,” writes Kriston Capps for CityLab in an argument against an Apple store in Mount Vernon Square. The perception of Apple stores as simply electronics outlets – no different than a shiny Best Buy – is not uncommon, and it speaks to a need for more thorough communication from Apple to the communities they prepare to enter.

While Apple can’t send every Stockholm citizen to Milan to see what’s in store for Kungsträdgården (although a few local journalists were offered a preview), they can take a proactive role in the community before construction even begins. Hosting Today at Apple-esque events and sessions in local venues – even without an accompanying store – would reap goodwill and offer residents a preview of what they can look forward to. Projects like the former Apple Music Festival come to mind. “…After seeing what they have done here in Milan, I’m not particularly worried that it will be bad in Stockholm,” writes Feber.

History has shown that commercial activities and public space can live hand in hand when executed in way that provides a perceived value to every party involved. Broader acceptance of modern-day town squares will continue to be a significant challenge for Apple as their retail ambitions trend toward increasingly grand architecture projects. The success of a store can’t be measured only by completion and profitability, it must also be valued as a resource by those who live and work around it. An upfront effort to set the stage and educate people about a significant store wouldn’t be a frivolous expense, rather it demonstrates a long-term investment in a community that’s about to do the same.

How do you feel about Apple’s plans for it’s retail stores? Sound off in the comments below!

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Tales from the Orchard: Apple’s App Store marks 10 years of third-party innovation

The revolution Steve Jobs resisted

 

By Stephen Silver of Apple Insider

The first iPhone saw release in 2007 with a fairly barebones selection of apps, none of which were made by outside developers. That changed when Apple opened the gates to developers a year later with iPhone OS 2.0, invigorating a sector and forever changing what it meant to be an “Apple developer.

The App Store officially launched on July 10, 2008, after it was announced the previous fall; the first software development kit was released in February of 2008.

As Apple demonstrated in an “oral history” it released a few days before the anniversary, the App Store has not only grown exponentially in its ten years of existence, but it’s also been at the forefront of all sorts of innovations in technology, culture and entertainment over the course of the decade.

The App Store has helped facilitate major growth in the content streaming revolution, as well as geolocation, e-commerce and even online dating, while also forever changing what it means to be a software developer.

All that, and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was reportedly resistant to the idea at first.

The App Store-free iPhone

When the first-generation iPhone arrived in 2007, it came with apps, but all of them were made by Apple. It had Mail, Safari, iTunes, Photos, Messages, Visual Voicemail, weather, camera, the calendar, the clock, and a few others that were Apple’s own, without any non-Apple apps, or user choice for alternative versions.

According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, the tech guru was opposed to allowing third-party to run natively on iPhone — and when pressured to do so by developers and others, he had a simple answer: Develop your own web apps that will work on the new platform.

“The full Safari engine is inside of iPhone,” Jobs said at WWDC in 2007. “And so, you can write amazing Web 2.0 and Ajax apps that look exactly and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone. And these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. They can make a call, they can send an email, they can look up a location on Google Maps. And guess what? There’s no SDK that you need!”

Developers in attendance didn’t exactly rise to their feet with roaring applause. Instead, they gave the equivalent of a golf clap, a rare miss for a “Jobsnote.”

However, after the backlash from developers continued, it soon became clear that keeping native apps out was not tenable for long.

Others in the know disagree with Isaacson’s story and contend third-party apps were always on the iPhone roadmap; Jobs and company were simply not comfortable with releasing an SDK at launch.

In any case, web apps came first, with native software to follow. Apple announced the release of an SDK in October of 2007, with the software shipping out to developers the following February.

“Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February,” Jobs wrote in a letter that October. “We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users.”

Jobs, in adding that the SDK would also allow the creation of apps for the iPod Touch, ended the letter by promising that “we think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones.” Apple also announced that developers could set the price of their own apps — including free — with the devs keeping 70 percent of sales revenues.

The SDK was officially released on March 6, 2008. Less than a week later, Apple announced that the SDK had been downloaded more than 100,000 times in the first four days.

The Store opens

Shortly after the iPhone 3G was released, the App Store officially came online on July 10, 2008. There were 500 apps available at launch.

The store was a hit with consumers almost immediately, as it was easy to use and figure out even for less-tech-savvy customers, and it brought life-changing technologies in all sorts of realms.

By early 2009, Apple had released a memorable TV commercial that introduced the phrase “there’s an app for that” to the lexicon:

Indeed, the App Store very soon after its launch changed life for its users in all sorts of ways, providing them with apps for fitness, gaming, navigation, book-reading, e-commerce and much more. The live-streaming revolution, with Netflix leading the way, was made possible by App Store apps. And thanks to Tinder and other geolocation-based apps, dating was never the same again.

Changes would come to the Store as time went on. When the iPad and later the Apple Watch came along, apps were part of those as well. Apple introduced in-app subscriptions for the first time in 2011, and a huge redesign debuted in the summer of 2017.

There were 500 apps available at the time of launch, a number that would grow to 3,000 by that September and 15,000 by the following January. The growth was exponential in the ensuing years, as the App Store hit 1 million apps in the fall of 2013, and reportedly reached 2 million earlier this year.

Just as the iPhone has grown from a product that didn’t exist 11 years ago to something that’s a ubiquitous part of life in the 21st century, apps are now an indisputable part of most people’s everyday existence.

 

Tales From the Orchard: Apple Just Made Safari the Good Privacy Browser

 

By Lily Hay Newman of Wired.com

APPLE ANNOUNCED A slew of new software features at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, including an augmented reality upgrade and animojis that can stick out their tongues when you do. But the company’s latest desktop and mobile operating systems contain a more subtle, yet more radical, innovation. The newest version of Apple’s Safari browser will push back hard against the ad-tracking methods and device fingerprinting techniques that marketers and data brokers use to monitor web users as they browse. Starting with Facebook.

The next version of Safari will explicitly prompt you when a website tries to access your cookies or other data, and let you decide whether to allow it, a welcome step toward explicit choices about online tracking. Safari will also make a dent in defeating the so-called “fingerprinting” approach, in which marketers use publicly accessible information about devices—like the way they’re configured, the fonts they have installed, and the plug-ins they run—to assign them an individual, trackable ID. In macOS Mojave and iOS 12, Safari will scrub much of this data, exposing only generic configuration information and default fonts. The browser will also stop supporting legacy plugins. The idea is to make your Mac indistinguishable from millions of others, muting the fingerprinting effect.

“Data companies are clever and relentless,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said on Monday, explaining why Apple pushed to add these features. The company calls the set of tools “Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0,” and they feature WebKit changes, like eliminating a 24-hour grace period that gave trackers a day of cookie access.

The new version of Safari will also help improve password hygiene by offering to generate, autofill, and store strong passwords. It’s a well-intentioned approach, although one that can be problematic depending on how it’s deployed. The browser will now also audit password reuse to try to discourage people from using the same password for multiple services—a crucial way consumers can reduce their risk of being impacted by data breaches.

The antitracking features continue Apple’s assault on ad tech; last year’s Safari update prevented video and audio from autoplaying, and the then-nascent Intelligent Tracking Prevention Webkit tool worked to identify and block tracking cookies. This year’s updates, though, take things a step further by significantly expanding the tracking techniques Safari can block or warn users about.

Apple’s not the only company to toughen up its browser against privacy and security menaces. As with Chrome’s Do Not Track mechanism, Apple seems to have based some of the new Safari protections on research from Mozilla, which offers its own protections in the Firefox browser. In February, Chrome also started offering native ad-blocking measures to bring more comprehensive protections to users based on standards from the Coalition for Better Ads. There are also browser plugins like Ghostery, Privacy Badger, and Adblock Plus to help stymie various tracking techniques. But Apple’s efforts in Mojave and iOS 12 appear to be the most prominent and comprehensive yet.

Though the new privacy mechanisms will potentially hinder all sorts of tracking, Apple specifically called out Facebook’s massive ad network—which is known for employing an array of user tracking strategies, like its ubiquitous “Like” buttons. In one of the slides depicting an example of how Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0 will work, Apple’s Federighi showed a Safari page open to Facebook with a popup notification reading “Do you want to allow ‘facebook.com’ to use cookies and website data while browsing ‘blabbermouth.net’? This will allow ‘facebook.com’ to track your activity.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request from WIRED for comment, and the platform is certainly not the only large ad network incorporating these techniques. But it’s a prominent player that has received extensive criticism for letting a variety of user data tracking tools run rampant. The company’s chief information security officer Alex Stamos noted on Twitter that it doesn’t seem like the new Safari will block tracking pixels or Javascript components, which are notorious for being exploitable as trackers or by bad actors for malicious activity.
Stamos seemed more focused on blasting Apple’s attempt to single Facebook out, but it’s true that this generation of Intelligent Tracking Prevention will inevitably have limitations. It’s difficult to fully block online tracking methods without also eroding website usability, and different privacy initiatives have approached dealing with this conflict in different ways.

“The consent popups will be a big deal to people. It’s more visual so you know that they are attempting to track you versus it just happening in the background silently,” says Will Strafach, an iOS security researcher and the president of Sudo Security Group. “I guess the real test will be how well these measures work and how advertisers and trackers will react.”

Google and Firefox already offer plenty of solid ad-blocking and antitracking mechanisms, and offer a host of other features that may make them more desirable than Apple’s browser. But if privacy matters most to you, it might be time to give Safari a try.

What’s your preferred browser or method for protecting your privavy online? Sound off in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard: What would Steve Jobs think of today’s Apple?

 

Originally posted on ZDNet

Steve Jobs was never one to leave anyone in any doubt as to what was on his mind, and thanks to hundreds of hours of keynotes, speeches, and interviews, we can get an insight into what he might think about the current state of the company he founded.

 

Still no next big thing

“One more thing…” — Steve Jobs

No quote excited Apple fans than this one. Those three simple words launched a number of world-changing Apple products.

 

Lack of focus

“Focusing is about saying ‘No.'” — Steve Jobs

The iPhone started out as a simple idea — a device that reinvented the smartphone. All a buyer needed to do was decide how much storage capacity they needed — 4, 8, or 16 gigabytes — and they were an iPhone owner.

Jump forward a decade and buyers are faced with eight different iPhones in numerous storage capacities and finishes.

 

AirPods

 

“The problem with Bluetooth headphones is that it’s not just recharging your iPod, you have to recharge your headphones too. People hate it. There are quality issues — the bandwidth isn’t high enough, and even if it does get there some day, people don’t want to recharge their headphones.” — Steve Jobs

While there’s little doubt that Bluetooth is now more than capable of delivering crystal clear audio, Apple’s solution to how to charge the AirPods would have no doubt upset Jobs. Not only do AirPod owners need to pop the AirPods into a case to charge, they also have to remember to charge up the case itself!

Dongles, dongles, and more dongles

 

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” — Steve Jobs

Apple is clearly on a mission to simplify its Mac lineup, and one way it wants to do that is by eliminating as many ports as possible and standardizing on a single port where possible, as it has done with the new MacBook Pro.

Problem is, while one port might work for the iPhone and iPad, when it comes to a computer it’s a real pain, and it forces many users to carry with them an array of different dongles and accessories (such as this Satechi Type-C USB 3.0 3-in-1 combo hub) in order to be able to get work done.

Dumb solutions to simple problems

 

“You’ve baked a really lovely cake, but then you’ve used dog s— for frosting.” — Steve Jobs

Apple employs some of the smartest people on the planet, and the company is capable of doing wonderful things.

But it’s also come out with some howlers. For example, the battery case for the iPhone that has a charging indicator on the inside where you can’t see it. Or a rechargeable mouse that has the charging port on the bottom. Or a rechargeable pencil that has a tiny cap that’s easily lost.

These are just the sort of design howlers that you don’t expect from Apple.

Bogged down iOS

 

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” — Steve Jobs

When the iPhone was unveiled a decade ago the operating system (then called iPhone OS, the iOS name didn’t appear until 2010) was sleek and simple. Everything was a couple of taps away and the user interface was intuitive and a snap to use.

Fast-forward a decade and things have changed dramatically. While iOS 11 retains some of the look and feel of the early iPhone OS, Apple has bolted on, shoehorned in, and otherwise added to the mobile operating system so much that the once elegant and streamlined platform has become a kludgy and awkward mess.

Notification panels and popups litter the interface, gaining access to often-needed features now require users to memorize a number of different gestures, and the Settings app is now a mess to rival the Windows Control Panel at its worst.

Siri is still so dumb

 

“Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.” — Steve Jobs

Apple acquired the technology behind its Siri voice assistant back in 2010 and integrated the technology into the iPhone 4S in late 2011, and since then it has spread from the iPhone to the iPad and the Mac.

But over that time Siri has gone from being “Wow!” to “Meh.” Put Siri in a room with Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Now and you quickly discover just how dumb and gimmicky Siri actually is. The voice recognition is poor, and the range of things you can do, and the flexibility to ask questions in a natural way, is very basic compared to other voice assistant offerings.

Apple’s massive R&D budget

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” — Steve Jobs

Apple’s R&D budget has increased over tenfold since the iPhone was released in 2007, and yet the company hasn’t come up with anything that comes close to the success of the iPhone.

Apple Pencil

 

“Who wants a stylus. You have to get ’em and put ’em away, and you lose ’em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus.” — Steve Jobs

I know many would argue that the Apple Pencil is more than a stylus, but many of problems with the stylus — finding it, putting it away, and losing it — haven’t really been solved by Apple.

The iPad’s rapid decline

 

“What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes.” — Steve Jobs

The iPad was Apple’s plan to disrupt the tablet market and put a stepping-stone between the iPhone and the Mac. And it looked like it would work. But in seven years sales have gone from showing strong growth initially to hitting a peak a few years back to now a rapid decline.

It could be said that the problem with the iPad is that consumers and enterprise buyers have lost interest in tablets, and that it’s only natural that sales would tank. But in that case how has Apple managed to keep Mac sales strong in the face of horrible PC sales, or managed to return the iPhone to growth?

Evolution over revolution

 

“I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes.” — Steve Jobs

Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of incremental, evolutionary updates from Apple, ranging across hardware and software, but there’s been little in the way of revolutionary changes. Certainly nothing that compares with those big gambles that Apple took while it was under the leadership of Jobs.

Following, instead of leading

 

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” — Steve Jobs

Apple used to look forward, but now the company feels like it is increasingly looking sideways at what its competitors are up to, in particular the premier Android device maker, Samsung.

Samsung has a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” attitude when it comes to hardware, and over the past few years we’ve seen Apple take a similar approach, especially with the iPhone. Some of these moves have been successful (for example, it’s clear that there was indeed a pent-up demand for larger and more expensive iPhones) while others have flopped (the iPhone 5C springs irresistibly to mind here).

 

Share your favorite Steve Jobs comments in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard: How Apple Killed Innovation

 

 

 

By Simon Rockman of Forbes

Mobile World Congress 2018 was strange. All the innovation was in the network side, handsets have become boring. While those touting 5G were talking about network slicing, full duplex radio, millimetre waves and massive MIMO, the handset folks seemed to think a better camera, smaller bezels and painful emojis were in some way special.

Phones were not always like that. Back before Barcelona it was the 3GSM, which those of us on What Mobile Magazine called the Cannes Phone Festival. Each handset manufacturer had something new and exciting. Maybe it was the 8810, Razr or P800, all fabulous innovative phones. Sometimes it was the N-gage, V.box or Serenata. At least they tried.

But somehow there is the Orwellian myth that Apple invented the Smartphone. Indeed there was a recent BBC radio documentary charting the need to de-tox from smartphones which said ‘now the country which invented the smartphone is working on the cure’. I did a triple-take. Was the BBC saying that Apple invented the smartphone? It was, so Radio 4 was wrong, but America did invent the smartphone, it’s just that the SIMON was an IBM invention. So the BBC was right, but didn’t know it. SIMON was the first ever smartphone, with predictive text and a touch screen 13 years before Steve Jobs sprinkled marketing fairy dust over an overpriced 2G phone with severe signalling problems, broken Bluetooth and the inability to send a picture message.

Nothing in the iPhone was something which hadn’t been seen before, it’s often seen as the flagbearer for the devices we have in our pockets, and maybe it was: Apple showed that marketing was more important than technology. The mobile phone industry is suffering the consequences, not only has Apple sucked all the revenue out of the rest of the industry it imposes huge technical challenges by ignoring standards.

I work at a mobile network which doesn’t sell Apple products and yet we’ve had to spend a huge amount of time and money making sure that our customers don’t get corrupted messages when they are sent from an iPhone.

We went from a world of bars, flips, clams, sliders and rotators each with a design language where you could spot the manufacturer from styling cues to a world of two designs. Phones that looked like an iPhone and phones that looked like a Blackberry. Now all phones are just black rectangles.

Apple charges operators through the nose. It’s taken all the portal revenue and now no-one makes any money out of devices so there is no fundamental research done. It all comes down to what Qualcomm and MediaTek tell the manufacturers to make. Testing phones is hard, very, very hard and it’s about to become many times more difficult with 5G where the complexities of mmWave testing mean you can’t use cables and all testing has to be done over the air in an expensive-to-rent anechoic chamber.

So everyone plays it safe.

 

It’s not like the ideas are not out there. Plucky Brit start-up Planet Computers has built the Gemini  , The gestating Monohm Runcible , and there are some amazing concepts like the Arcphone which is inspired by the Motorola Razr.

Just googling ‘concept phone’ will bring up a swathe of ideas.

But there is hope. Not just in the form of small companies doing interesting things. Indeed not even in that hope. Planet are very unusual in shipping a product the vast majority fall by the wayside.

The hope comes in the death of the smartphone. You see smart is escaping. It will no longer reside in the one device you stare at but become omnipresent. One trend at Mobile World Congress was increased virtual assistants. Samsung will be there with a dedicated Bixby device, T-Mobile wants you to shout “OK Magenta”, and Telefonica has announced commercialisation of its product. All this follows on the heels of Alexa and her friends. And people like the devices.

As your cooker, television and bath all become smart there is less need for the single smartphone.  What is the phone today will become something else and we’ll go back to the time when phones were used for voice.

Such generational changes are normal, when I started in the analogue mobile phone industry the dominant, unassailable handset manufacturers were Motorola and NEC. It became Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola. The belief that the status quo of today with a dominant Samsung and Apple is to fail to remember the future. Peak Apple? Maybe not yet, but we are well past peak innovation and the disruption can not come soon enough.

Tales from the Orchard: Apple’s Cook to Meet With Trump Amid U.S.-China Trade Tensions

 

 

 

By Mark Gurman of Bloomberg.com

-Cook attended Tuesday’s state dinner for France’s Macron
-Apple CEO has urged China and U.S. to settle trade differences

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook will meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday as the company looks to head off a brewing trade war between the U.S. and China.

The sit-down between Cook and Trump will take place in the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon and be closed to the press, according to the president’s official schedule released by the White House.

The Trump administration’s decision to pursue tariffs on as much as $150 billion in Chinese goods has stoked trade tensions with Beijing that could affect Apple’s business in Asia. The company’s sprawling production chain is also centered in China.

Last month, Cook told attendees at a conference in Beijing that he hoped that China and the U.S. could resolve their differences on trade.

“The countries that embrace openness do exceptional and the countries that don’t, don’t,” he said. “It’s not a matter of carving things up between sides. I’m going to encourage that calm heads prevail.”

A trade war could place Apple in the Chinese government’s cross-hairs. A Communist Party newspaper last month listed the iPhone maker among the American companies that would be “most damaged” if a trade war erupted.
Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after regular business hours.

Cook was among the guests on Tuesday evening at the first state dinner of Trump’s presidency, a formal fete for French President Emmanuel Macron. The Apple chief was accompanied by Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment and government affairs and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama.

What do think of Tim Cook’s extracurricular activities? Sound off in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard: Apple should open a university that’s free for everyone

Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Student debt is at an all-time high. It’s time for Apple to help out.

By Scott Galloway of Wired.com

Apple’s ability to create low-cost products and sell them at premium luxury prices has landed them with a cash pile greater than the Russian stock market and the market capitalisation of Boeing and Nike combined. The big question is whether Apple has an obligation to spend this enormous pile of cash? And, if so, how?
My suggestion: Apple should launch the world’s largest tuition-free university.

The company has roots in academia and its brand foots really well with creative services and education. But, ultimately, I also think this idea is an enormous profit opportunity.

How can Apple make it tuition-free as well as profitable? It needs to “flip” the current funding model, by making it tuition-free for students and by charging companies to recruit there. At the moment, companies go to universities and think of them as their giant HR departments. The reasons are obvious. Universities are great at screening applicants, picking smart people, ensuring they can work in groups and that they are emotionally stable. Universities aren’t in the business of educating, as much as they are in the business of granting credentials to its students. Apple would be very good at attracting the best candidates. And in exchange for access to those students, corporates would be willing to pay a lot of money.


Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Student debt is at an all-time high. So we need to flip the model and put the costs of education on to the corporation. Apple could also deploy a bidding system, similar to what Google and Facebook do in advertising, where corporations bid to have first access to the very best students.

Apple is already 60 to 70 per cent there. It has the brand and it would attract incredible applicants. What makes a quality school? Sure, it’s the faculty, but mostly it’s the brand’s ability to attract the best and brightest. As long as the best and brightest apply to your programme, you’re going to have the best and brightest faculty.

As long as you have the best and brightest faculty, you will have the best recruiters showing up, who will pay the most. And as long as you have the recruiters who will pay the most showing up, you get the best and brightest applying.

Apple would immediately get several million applications. Or enough applications where they can have an outstanding faculty. And then, by offering free tuition, they can place competitive pressure on my colleagues to start offering tuition at a lower price.

This is desperately needed because currently we have this cartel that makes OPEC look cuddly and socially conscious.



I work with one of the best faculties in the world – and I think two-thirds could leave and not be missed. Now, does that mean they should be fired? No. But does it mean that they should be making as much money as they do, without the same competitive pressures that everyone faces in the marketplace? Of course not. This just translates into outrageous tuition fees which kids finance with debt. Which means they get houses later; which means they start families later; which means they take fewer risks – it’s a drain on the economy.

So, I think a healthy dose of this tech-inspired efficiency and competition would be a great thing for academia. Today, we currently have the wrong attitude. We turn away people and take pride in our exclusivity. It’s like a homeless shelter bragging about the people it doesn’t let through the door. The whole mentality is screwed up.

Apple Stores could be used as campuses for the Apple University. The stores are in highly dense, populated areas; they’re not used after hours and they’re already starting to give some classes.

Alternatively, what if Apple had taken their space ship and turned it into a university? What if they said it was a university from the hours of 6pm to 10pm? And what if they said that three per cent of its 150,000 employees that have credentials as being the best and brightest in the company become the adjunct professors in this university?

With Apple’s profits, I believe it could start the equivalent of the University of Texas, the University of California or the Michigan state system – but ultimately, I think it could start the largest free-tuition system in America. It would be good for society, it foots to their brand and I think it would be wildly profitable. What it would really come down to, to make all of this work, is execution.

As told to WIRED consulting head Tom Upchurch

How do you feel about an Apple sponsored university? Sound off in the comments below!

Weekly Round Up 3/30/18

 

 

Facebook can’t have all the fun…
It’s Amazon’s Turn in the Tech Hot Seat

It should be for any business that handles people’s data.
Backlash against tech companies is a wake-up call

Edward Snowden said it best, “Voluntary surveillance.”
Why do people hand over so much data to tech companies? It’s not easy to say ‘no’

As I was a watching a clip of this, I got the feeling Uncle Timmy might be running for office one day soon…
Recode Daily: Tim Cook talks Facebook, data privacy, domestic manufacturing and tech in education

This is super creepy and cool all at the same time.
A Prediction About Future Tech From The 1990s Has Gone Viral Because It’s Spookily Accurate

 

They never seem to get any better…
Women and Minorities tech; By the Numbers.

 

I don’t need Alexa cooking any meals for me, thanks.
To Invade Homes, Tech is Trying to Get Your Kitchen

I’m telling you, that tech episode of the X-Files scared the crap out of a lot of people.
How Tech Can Make Retirement Harder For Couples

Tales from the Orchard: With these patents, Apple could win the next major platform war

 

By Helen Edwards and Dave Edwards of Quartz

The next stage of the platform wars may be in health.

Despite being one of the most regulated sectors, where change is driven as much by law as by technological advances, the big tech giants are active. Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway are teaming up to form an independent healthcare company for their employees in the United States. Alphabet’s Verily is moving into health insurance. And to consolidate, traditional healthcare giant Cigna has announced (paywall) it is buying pharmacy benefits firm Express Scripts.

While the same rules for platform domination will likely apply—adoption that builds on network effects aided by the power of Big Data and increasingly sophisticated AI—only one company already has a popular health-tracking device on sale that is essentially a supercomputer that’s always on your body.

The Apple Watch continues to grow its sales, which it doesn’t disclose but are already presumed to be in the tens of millions annually; one report suggests that Apple sold more watches last quarter than Rolex, Omega, and Swatch combined.

And the pipeline suggests that Apple has even more plans for its smartwatch.

At the end of February, Apple was awarded a patent for an Airpod-style charging case that can hold a watch but also a number of bands. This isn’t just a fashion accessory; the bands in question are “smart bands,” electronic devices in their own right. The reason you’d want more than one band might be because Apple might think that the next generation of medical devices will be for conditions that need more than one physiological measure—such as blood pressure and blood glucose for managing diabetes or glucose intolerance—and that measuring these body signals will not be possible in a single wearable.

(These bands aren’t fantasy—a company called AliveCor already offers the first US FDA-approved electrocardiogram reader for Apple Watch called Kardiaband, which may also be able to detect high potassium levels in the blood.)

Last year, Apple was also awarded a patent for a very clever way of measuring blood pressure with a Watch, where you can hold the Watch against your chest and a controller is configured to process output signals from an accelerometer. It detects when your blood-pressure pulse is propagated from the left ventricle of your heart, detects when it arrives at your wrist, then calculates a pulse-transit time that is then used to calculate your blood pressure. The accelerometer is dead in the middle of the band, not in the body of the Watch. This makes us think that there’s not much else that can go in that band, except perhaps a battery and maybe some colored lights.

Another area to speculate on is what else Apple may be thinking of monitoring. In the US alone, there are 115 million people who suffer from some form of pre-diabetes, diabetes, or hypertension. Many people actively monitor their diabetes through physiological monitoring of blood glucose with a finger prick test. Blood-glucose measurement through non-invasive means is a significant challenge and no one has figured out a reliable way to do it accurately.

But rumor has it that Apple is on the case. This is a very tough technical challenge that people have been trying to solve for decades. We suspect that Apple’s case patent may be an indicator that it will not be possible or desirable to use one band for both blood pressure and blood glucose, or anything else for that matter, for at least the next decade. So you might not be monitoring everything all of the time but you may be easily able to switch out charged smart bands that are fashionable and conceal that you are being monitored.

Apple needs the Watch to win the health-platform wars. They know you’ll want to preserve your privacy by being able to disguise what you are monitoring. They know you’ll want to be able to effortlessly store and connect because you will be required to supply all the data to your doctor, insurer or employer. They know that anything less will feel like the monitoring—and hence the condition—has taken over your life.

We think that only Apple can make medical surveillance bearable, much less cool. Which makes an Apple Watch, smart bands, and a case that does it all, an essential purchase. At that point, the Watch system is a lot more than just a $400 watch and the market isn’t just consumers—it’s employers and insurers who figure out the new economics of health as a platform service. The overall market for watches is likely smaller than phones but Apple’s competitive advantages in design, technology, and data security could give it a significantly higher market share in watches.

This is especially true for insurance company buyers who will be focused on effectiveness and security much more than price. If Apple emerges as the safe purchase for corporate buyers, the Watch could be the next big thing that investors have been looking for since the iPhone.

 

What do think of Apple tackling the Health Industry? Tell us in the comments below!

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