Wednesday, November 19, 2014

UPDATE: iOS app privacy

How does a Google or Microsoft iOS app know that I have other Google or Microsoft apps installed on my iOS device?  For example, if I download and install Chrome (after having, perhaps Google Maps installed and myself logged in), I am greeted with to offer to sign in - and Chrome already knows my Google ID.  Similarly, if I download Word, log-in, and then download Excel, Excel already knows my Microsoft ID.

This is surprising as it means the apps have access to both a list of my existing apps (I think this is okay but not ideal) as well as my user ID (huh?).  Is it possible for me to write an app that can: (i) determine a user's Google ID; and (ii) ask the user to log in and thus give me credentials?  (i) alone seems bad, (ii) is very bad.

Also, noting that I do not even need to provide a password to confirm to Chrome that I am myself, is there some serious security lapse here?

All very odd

UPDATE: Is this related?  It's not completely the same (as this seems narrower than knowing my Google ID and Microsoft ID).  But perhaps part of the same framework?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Apple and high defensibility

There are lots of reasonable questions about iPad's growth and future.  Nevertheless, this article makes a nice argument that Apple has enough of a lead in the space and, more importantly, a sustainable advantage in processors, to continue to earn profits and improve the product without obvious near-term risks or competition in its high end space.  This is a direct result of Apple's vertical integration and, as a corollary, having a proprietary source of supply for chips.  Whether or not there is some enormous use case of the iPad is still somewhat unknown (to be clear, it is a big business even if people have difficulty articulating exactly why it is better than alternative formats), at least there is time for Apple, its customers, and its developers to figure it out.

Even more interestingly, the article notes that this processor independence makes a strong case for AppleTV and AppleWatch.  In brief, as Apple works to bring general computing to different places, it can stake out a high and differentiated ground using hardware (processor) and software (OSX/iOS) advantages unlike anyone else.  It is not the idea of vertical integration as a defensive strategy that is interesting; it is the fact that no one else seems to be trying this (at least successfully).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Economic Growth

A reasonable NYT article on economic growth (in particular, growth in China) but relevant on a variety of fronts.

There is one aspect that sticks out.  The article (and cited sources) suggest that growth reverts to the mean and that superior growth will inevitably decline over time.  And notes that the USSR and Japan were both expected to surpass the US but never did.  This seems to gloss over the US's high growth over a long period.

My thumbnail view on growth, in particular, growth in the US:

1) huge natural endowment;
2) significant immigration and high birth rate; and
3) most importantly, strong property rights and rule of law.

#1 helped to give a head start and encourage #2 but, ultimately, it is #2 and #3 that allowed above trend growth to continue.  As a nice example, see the eventual stumbling of the USSR and Japan for #3 and #2, respectively (notwithstanding the large #1 of USSR).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Apple Pay and Target

Someone at Target is not paying attention.

Target revised its iOS app to let shoppers use Apple Pay to buy on-line.  However, they neglected to work with their bank partner/issuer (TD Bank, I think) to allow their own store branded Visa card to be registered with Apple Pay.  I know Target can't direct their partner and that Target is not that interested in the Visa card at this point, but one would think they could cajole TD and/or delay the adoption of Apple Pay until they could avoid this conspicuous gap.  This is on top of not being able to use Apple Pay at the register (which is understandable as Target has not yet installed NFC devices at the register).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Starr vs US regarding AIG

Article in the NYT about the Starr suit against the federal government.

It would truly be wonderful if we saw some evenhanded coverage that showed exactly what the government did and did wrong when it used AIG's value to bail-out much of wall street.  Even if the actions were necessary to preserve the financial system, it doesn't mean that AIG shareholders should have uniquely borne so much of the burden of those actions.

The use of AIG as a conduit to make other parts of the financial system whole was a panicked reaction by the government to the crisis.  Taking the government at face value that there was no malice does not justify the use of government powers to act so inequitably.  Some recompense is appropriate.

The following statement from the NYT article captures what I have been writing for years

The decision to use taxpayer and A.I.G. money to repurchase soured mortgage deals that the company insured for big banks in the form of credit-default swaps amounted to a “backdoor bailout” of Wall Street, the lawsuit says.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Touch ID and Mac

I wonder why Apple has not brought Touch ID to the Mac to help in password management.  I know typing in passwords is faster on a keyboard and that safari can be set up to automatically enter passwords but still, simple identity verification seems like it would be useful.  Maybe this is an example of less is more and just saying no.

Friday, September 12, 2014

U2 and the circle of endorsements

Just a thought on how funny it has been to see U2 migrate from Apple, to Palm, to RIMM, and back to Apple over the past several years.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Apple Watch and iPhone pairing

It seemed clear that the watch will require an iPhone for full functionality.  My question: will it fail to work as a fitness band without a phone?  Given the new larger size of the phones, it seems a burden to have to carry both for running (especially as I think they said there was enough onboard memory for music).  It will be interesting to see how tied together the phone and watch are to each other.

apple watch customization

I think I saw in the keynote that the watchface is customized from the watch itself.  Which is fine but, given that the watch requires a paired iPhone, I really hope customization can be done from the phone.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

apple Watch

Now I understand why they added voice messaging to iMessages.  To text from the watch.

Monday, September 8, 2014

iPhone 6 and one-handed typing

Why would one-handed mode on a large-screen iPhone require a crazy re-sizing scheme?  Wouldn’t it just be a small variation of the iPad’s shrink-and-split keyboard where the iPhone keyboard would shrink to match the size of the regular iPhone keyboard and shift to one side or the other?  It could even use the same trigger (a slide of the screen once engaged) or just default to shrunk and shifted.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

iPhone 6: September 14

As if there were any doubt, September 14 seems all but certain as the release date for the new iPhone: the "upgrade eligibility" engine on the apple store app now specifically notes eligibility both as of today and as of September 14.


Friday, August 29, 2014

NFC, iPhone, Apple Watch (iWatch or whatever it will be called)

Daring Fireball, as always, had a very thoughtful post (couched as a joke) on how NFC could be incorporated and be made more useful on a phone than it has been to date.

I don't know really know a ton about NFC but believe that the paypass, expresspay, etc. systems all use an NFC chip on the payment tag, card, etc.

John Gruber suggests that both the phone and wearable could have an NFC chip to allow this.  I would not mind a contactless payment device that was already on my wrist instead of in my pocket.

My question: is it possible to create a configurable NFC chip that allows it to take on the identity of an NFC chip that works with paypass or expresspay?  So I'm thinking that an american express customer confirms some credentials that allow the phone's chip to work with the relevant system.  As an alternative to configurable, I guess the chip could be static and the payment network is instructed to respect the chip and associate it with an account.  I think this is how google wallet works.

My issues:
- would one be able to link more than one account?  If so, how would one easily select which account to use?  Right now, selection is inherent in the tap as I choose which card or dongle to tap to the machine.  If a phone has credentials for more than one network, it seems that the ease of tap gets offset with the burden of selection.  What I want is what I have now: I have a paypass chip GLUED to my phone so I tap my phone to the reader with no need to enter anything on my phone (no app, no interaction, etc.).  This is WAY better than having to enter anything.  I might tolerate a fingerprint confirm.
- do the systems want to encourage or discourage others to create chips?  I can't decide.  On the side of encourage, it would increase use of the systems, make merchants more likely to use them, etc. (typical network effects).  On the side of discourage, it lowers barriers to entry (if it can be done on an iPhone, over time it can be done on ANY phone, or watch or whatever) and creates security risks (there is some authentication process where a phone is authorized to the system rather than receiving a card that is pre-authorized).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Amazon's expanding B2B efforts

The recent news regarding Local Register, Amazon's new mobile payments system, may be the next step in my pet theory that Amazon was designed NOT to be a retailer but rather to be the backbone for retail and take a margin on retail generally.  However, to create the scale and credibility needed to move into these businesses, Amazon first needed to create a massive retailer.  But making money from retail itself is perhaps not the true goal.

For example:
1) Warehousing and third party sales.  Amazon has expanded greatly into storing goods for third parties.
2) Fulfillment and Delivery.  Amazon acts as storefront and handles logistics interfaces for third parties.
3) Finance.  Amazon provides small business lending.
4) Cloud.  This is very well known.
5) Payments.  Now Amazon handles payments for goods that have no other connection to Amazon.
6) Devices.  Although superficially supportive of Amazon's retail business, these are equally supportive of Amazon's third party retail businesses.

What's next?  What does Amazon do that is easily portable and deliverable for third parties?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

AppleTV and gaming

I had expected games to be announced for AppleTV by now (so much so that I foolishly deferred buying an AppleTV for our new television).  I had originally assumed that the announcement would be dependent upon a large enough installed base of AppleTVs to resolve the usual chicken/egg problem for game devices (no games means no one buys the console; no console owners means no one develops games).

However, I think that, beyond installed base (seems like it is about 20m units so far, but perhaps some of these are older models? In any event, at 7m units per year, it will reach a respectable number quickly), perhaps the delay is because of the poor reception for the MFi controllers.  And, until Apple can figure out if it wants to sell its own controllers or try to simply set standards, it is holding off on gaming?

A good controller is hard to design but worth getting right.  And a good controller at a reasonable price (especially as it will be compared to the relative cost vs. the AppleTV itself) is even harder.  If we don't see games announced when the installed base of third generation AppleTVs (running at least an A5) is 40m, I will be more convinced that it is a lack of good controllers at a good price that is deferring games.

Separately, the fact that Apple has stuck to A5s for the AppleTV is suggestive of trying to create a meaningful base.  At the same time, the 64bit A7 likely makes more sense for quality gaming and future proofing so, if Apple wants the installed base to be 64 bit, we may have a long wait for games on AppleTV.  I may go buy that AppleTV now that I think about it...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Stolen plane?

MH370 is veering into James Bond territory.  All normal location reporting systems turned off.  Radar tracking shows it changed course sharply immediately after.  And now satellite information sent from the engines (and thus difficult to access to mid-flight - but I must admit I can't wait to see the movie where someone needs to disable these transponders) shows controlled long-distance flight?

Also, how did China, which is very careful about issuing visas, issue two in stolen passports.  Normal visa procedures require PRE-SUBMISSION of the passport, together with photos, etc. which is then reviewed, has a visa card pasted in, and is returned.  That seems a very bold action with a stolen passport as it is a high level of scrutiny (not a simple visual check at an airport for 5 seconds) and traceable locations (given the return obligation).  Also, how did they get the photos of two Iranians to match those of some Austrian and Italian guys?

Finally, if it was a 777-200ER (news reports say 777-200, Boeing's report page says ER), this is one of the longest range planes ever made.  It can fly to almost any point on earth.

It seems someone now has:

  1. ~200 Chinese nationals;
  2. the ability to get anywhere in the world; and
  3. enough of an organization to land and conceal a wide-body passenger liner.