Wednesday, December 2, 2015

iOS adoption rates

I wonder to what extent iOS adoption rates are affected by the longevity of iOS devices.  For example, if the rate is truly determined by looking at the number of unique devices that access the App Store, older devices that cannot support the most recent iOS release would drag down the reported adoption rates.

It would also be interesting to see official adoption rates by device (iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, etc.) or at least device type or vintage (iPad, iPod Touch, etc. or 2015 purchase).  There are unofficial trackers that do exactly this, but it would be nice to have more authoritative data.

Finally, it would be nice if the official page gave some detail on the methodology beyond being “measured by the App Store”.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Perhaps a small product portfolio and growth are not at odds?

This DaringFireball post made me think a little bit about the recurring (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012) theme of "Apple is too dependent on a single product".

There's no doubt that Apple's results and future are closely tied to the iPhone's continued success.  But I also think it is important to think about how much that concentration on iPhone has created the success.

Gruber's comment about Apple's rapid and enormous growth (i.e., both its rate as well as its rate in the face of its large size) highlighted, again, the importance of having a small suite of products (the fabled: "We can put all of our products on the table you're sitting at").  It's not news that the sharp focus allows Apple to break the mold of low-return device sales.  My small question of the day is whether, beyond customer satisfaction, the only way to manage a giant company (at least by market cap) successfully is to have a narrow portfolio of products?  I'm distinguishing between a complex company and a complicated product mix.  There can be a lot of activity (a complex company) that supports the sale of those products but, to make sure efforts are coordinated, the products (and thus goals) must be few.

And the portfolio is even smaller than it may appear.  The criticisms of "iPad is a just a big iPhone" and insight that AppleTV is just a display-less iPhone also mean that the products have significant overlap.  Which means that the supporting underlying activity for each is largely complementary.

And, as I write this, I realize it may be captured in the Asymco post I just linked to - from 2010 (of course Asymco figured this out a long time ago).  Oil companies (the title is "Apple vs. Exxon-Mobil") are another example of giant complicated companies with small portfolios.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chromecast Audio

Chromecast Audio makes good sense - it seems like Google's approach to Airplay and so allows a phone or computer to "cast" audio to a speaker.  Apple TV and Airport Express do the same thing but, as Apple TV morphs into a more full-fledged console and given the Airport Express's wider mandate (router, printer hub, etc.), this is a reasonable slot to fill.  And the 3rd generation Apple TV is still a little pricey (and big) to act merely as a speaker bridge.

A simpler "Apple Audio" dongle could respond directly but I still think an even more interesting approach would be to take the Airport Express (and Airport Extreme - which, bafflingly, does not have speaker output) and allow Apple Music to run directly on the router rather than simply act as a bridge between the computer and speaker.  This would avoid lag and help battery life enormously.

Monday, September 28, 2015

New Apple TV (4th generation)

I understand that the new Apple TV will be available in two different storage sizes: 32GB and 64GB.  What I can't figure out is why we would need 64GB.  I'm sure there is a good reason but I can't find anything that gives the answer.  Movies, music and photos are currently streamed and that shouldn't need to change.  And I understand that apps will be downloaded in chunks on an as-needed basis so we shouldn't need to have every single app onboard at all times.

A few guesses:
1) to avoid stuttering from slow or choppy downloads.  Lots of storage will help avoid this BUT: any meaningful size should be enough and the initial download will still be at the mercy of download quality (assuming the app or stream is used immediately)
2) to use when not connected to the internet.  Maybe?  But seems weird for an at-home device.
3) to store non-internet based items.  Home movies?  But 64GB (or even 32GB) seems like either too little or too much.  Too little if you really want to use the Apple TV for storage.  Too much if it is just a temporary repository.

None of these makes sense.

A crazy guess: for people on satellite internet?

Note that none of this explains why 32GB is the base amount (although perhaps, given the 20GB app limit, perhaps Apple figured the first 10 minutes of the most likely 25 movies to be streamed could be onboard for instant start? or something similar where the device tries to predict usage and have some portion onboard?).

A small bonus question: is the memory solid state?  I assumed it was but, really, don't see why it needs to be given that the device will probably just sit on a shelf.  And I don't think I've seen any confirmation of the storage type.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Watch OS Workout App Idea

For the next iteration of the workout app on Apple Watch, I’d like to see a “trim” feature.  Apple’s workout app, correctly, doesn’t shut off just because a pre-specified time has elapsed.  This makes good sense as a user would hate to lose credit for a workout because she went longer than anticipated.  However, it also means that it is easy to forget to turn off the app and thus can cause the recorded length of a workout to exceed its actual length.

I think it would make sense to be able to “trim” a workout in a manner analogous to trimming a video.  Exercisers would still be kept honest (any activity recorded has to have occurred) but would allow a more accurate reflection of active minutes.  Ideally, the trim feature would have some sort of “activity” or “exertion” graph that makes it easier to judge where to trim back to rather than relying on time as the only metric.

I imagine the workflow is:
  •           In addition to “save workout”, there is a “trim workout” button
  •           After selecting, there is a line with a waveform reflecting intensity (adjusted for the type of workout) with time stamps or ticks
  •           The digital crown would control the cutoff point (highlighting what will be excised)
  •           A simple button to confirm the trim and save or to cancel the trim and return to the save workout screen

An even better trim feature would be to be able to cut a workout into different segments to avoid capturing time spent resting.  But that seems a little harder to do on the watch interface. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

can't delete Apple Music?

Why does this Wired author assert that "You can't delete" Apple Music?  If Brian Barrett means "you can't go back to the old Music App", he's pretty wrong.  If he means you can't delete the Music App period, he's right but that has always been the case.  And I'm pretty sure he means the former as he seems to be lamenting the change from the old Music app.

For those who don't want Apple Music (I didn't - I was spooked by the lost songs/mixed up metadata problems and didn't think it likely I would use Connect), and who want to revert back to the old pre-Apple Music app, do the following:

1) go to settings>general>restrictions and scroll down to "Apple Music Connect".  Deselect Apple Music Connect and enable restrictions.
2) go to settings>music and deselect "Show Apple Music".
3) if you use iTunes Match, leave "iCloud Music Library" enabled to keep playlists synced and all music available on your devices.

And now you are back to your pre-Apple Music app.  No Connect.  No "New".  No "For You".  Just Music, playlists, and radio.  Just like before.

Is it a little inconvenient?  Absolutely - I needed to write a set of instructions.  Is it difficult?  Not really, the instructions had two (maybe three) steps.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

oil prices

Given that certain countries are highly dependent upon oil earnings for their government budgets and economies generally, how much political work goes into destabilizing other oil producing countries (and thus both permitting increased deliveries and increasing prices)?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Windows Fans"

In most of the articles about Microsoft's write-down of $7.6b on its Nokia deal, as well as the source email itself from Satya Nadella, there is a reference to refocusing Microsoft's mobile efforts on three groups: business/enterprise customers, users of lower-cost phones, and "Windows fans".

The first is fine - I think that Microsoft's franchise has shifted to weight Office more than Windows and so targeting business makes sense (although I'm not sure how giving Office away for free works to earn profits).

The second is dangerous but perfectly plausible.  Not a great customer base but big volumes can go a long way.  Of course, for software, the margins are nearly 100% so competing on price is dangerous but fine (also, hard to see how this works well with targeting business users?).

But the third is baffling.  Who is a "Windows fan"?  I thought Windows was universal because users had no choice, not because users loved the brand.  And I write brand very specifically.  I don't mean that some users don't love a specific version of Windows (personally, I think Windows 7 is great and they really should have just fired everyone and kept raking in the profits from selling it for years). I mean that, given the multiple changes to the OS (especially on mobile but also more generally - see Windows 8 v 8.1), it can't mean that they love their Windows workflow (there is no such thing as workflows generally don't translate from desktop to mobile/keyboard to touch). And it can't mean for the APIs (programmers are not a big enough market to set as one of three core targets for sales).  So it must mean a devotion to the BRAND.  But that seems insane.  And why do none of the articles even question the idea of their being a meaningful set of fans of the Window brand large enough to translate from desktop to mobile?

People like Android but, really, it is by defining themselves against iOS.
People like iOS but, really, it is either by defining itself against Android or against history.  As the OS stops evolving so rapidly (there was no cut and paste only a few years ago...), there will be less to delight and the OS will just fade into the background.  And, what people really like about iOS are the apps available and the integration with other Apple products at a core level.

But I don't think anyone LOVES Windows because there isn't another reasonable comparison.  And the apps don't exist on Mobile.  And I don't think the experience is really so different from Android or iOS that it matters.

So are there only two legs?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Left hands and right hands

Duane Reade/Walgreens has an app that, among many other features, has an electronic copy of their loyalty card and permits it to be included in Passbook (iOS’s electronic wallet).  In fact, it is even location aware so that the card will appear on one’s phone when nearby the store to ease scanning at the register. And the website confirms that the phone version of the card works in the store.

So far, pretty sensible.

However, when one arrives that the register and tries to scan the phone, the cashier will say: “Sorry, we’re not allowed to scan phones so please enter your phone number instead.”  And then, “no, you may not enter your card number, only your phone number.”  What?  Why is there an electronic copy of the card?  Why is it in passbook?  Why is it location aware?

Is the unfortunate person on the app side unaware that someone on the rewards side doesn’t want people to use electronic versions of the loyalty card (which itself is baffling given that using the card is more helpful to Walgreens than it is to the customer)?

Someone at Walgreens is not doing their job.

See also this for Target's version of left hands/right hands with respect to apps and in-store.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Using Android against itself

This is funny.  As part of its efforts to switch users from Android to iOS, Apple will release an "Android Migration" app to move "contacts, message history, photos and video, Web bookmarks, mail accounts, calendars and even wallpapers" from the user's Android phone to iOS.

Why funny?  Because the loose nature of security in Android (including access to system level items such as wallpapers) means one can create an app like this on Android but not (or not without great difficulty) on iOS.

Also funny is that, given the prevalence of developing for iOS first, nearly all meaningful apps on Android have iOS counterparts and so Apple could have a "baby-version" of the app that at least shows that the potential switchee will not lose any core apps he or she depends on.

Finally funny is seeing Apple's fonts and style on an Android phone and not because it is a knock-off.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

tablet doom and gloom

There's been a lot of concern about declining year-on-year tablet, including iPad, sales.  I think the definition of the relevant market needs closer examination.

For traditional business measures ("will this business line increase sales this period vs the relevant prior period?"), these metrics (total unit sales, revenues, etc.) are correct.

But, for trying to predict the relevance and permanence of a sector ("are tablets a flash in the pan or are they a device with staying power?"), these are NOT the right metrics.

Regarding reduced year-on-year sales, tablets, and the iPad in particular, had huge initial sales because they answered the unmet demands for many people and there had never been a solution prior to iPad's release.  The dramatic improvements from iPad1, to iPad2, to iPad retina, and iPad Mini, all led to meaningful sales even to those who previously purchased earlier generations.  But, as many have pointed out, iPads are durable and capable devices so upgrades are less frequent, especially as incremental improvements have been less dramatic (iPad Air 2 v iPad Air 1 is a sharp example).

None of this means that the second meaning of market (the user base) is adversely impacted.  I'd bet that many iPad1s are still going strong and relatively useful.  iPad2s are definitely still useful (noting that they continue to be sold as the base iPad Mini!).  So, in terms of a growing user base, tablets look healthy.  Apple's own comment that most buyers are new suggests that this is the case (and helps to explain why, atypically for Apple, it continues to sell 3 year old hardware in the tablet space unlike any other).

I think we are close to the point of seeing what normal replacement cycles look like on iPad and should think more about household durables (washing machines and televisions) than phones or even computers.  It's probably a five year cycle and so will start seeing some meaningful growth in a few years as the pig of those first few huge years moves through the python.

Monday, April 27, 2015

oxymorons and Apple results

This headline isn't unique to Apple but it is especially conspicuous given Apple's prominence: "Apple second-quarter earnings expected to top expectations".  I'm not quite sure how something can be expected to top its expectations...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Apple Store Down?

why is the Apple Store down?  And how is there no news on this?

Monday, March 30, 2015


Is there a correlation between having had and raised children and Alzheimer's?

Monday, March 23, 2015


I wonder whether consciousness evolved because it helped higher animals (and people in particular) to hone skills.  I was thinking about whistling and other complex learned skills and it occurred to me that it was the ability to think of our individual body parts as tools and objects that we can control (but not precisely) that allowed the faster learning to take place.  This is perhaps the flip-side of Cartesian duality - the body came first and the illusion of the mind developed as a way to gain advantage.

And perhaps all the elements of consciousness work to permit faster learning (deferred gratification, distinct episodic memory, etc.)?

I'm sure there are already tons of books about this but I had not thought of consciousness (and self-awareness, especially of body parts) as an adaptation to permit learning until this morning (when wondering if a dog could be taught to spit).

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Apple TV?

If so, this is a true and long overdue "finally".

Thursday, March 19, 2015

apple watch pricing

I am clearly not the target market for traditional watches as I had only a vague sense of how much a Rolex or Tag Heuer cost and really no idea at all of what is available in the $500-$1000 range.  The answers: (i) Rolexes and Tags cost a lot and (ii) not much is available in the $500-$1000 range.

Taking a quick look at Tourneau, I think Apple will have no problem with its pricing.  The $500-$1000 space is largely filled with low/middle end names and undistinguished details.  Not a knock on those brands - Apple has no name in watches and, of course, cannot have meaningful detail on the watch face.  But, given a choice between an Apple Watch and most of these choices, I really don't see how Apple can't get a meaningful portion of this market.

Also interesting is that Apple jumps almost entirely over the mass-luxury segment with its pricing - leaving effectively the entire $1100-$10000 range out - and so avoiding going head to head in that segment where you see some detail and have some powerful brands.  Many are trying to paint Apple as competing with those brands.  Given the pricing, that painting is wrong.

Apple isn't trying to beat Rolex or Tag Heuer (at least not yet).  Apple is going after Tissot, Hamilton, etc.  Modest graduation gifts.  Upper-middle class gifts.  iPod level gifts.  Apple is going to get a lot of this market, especially anyone who doesn't wear a watch today (and who owns an iPhone, of course - but that is a 400 million strong number).  And it is going to crush in the $350-$500 range with the Sport where there is no competition at all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

next generation Apple Watch

Beyond the obvious of making the device thinner, independent from iPhone, etc., I wonder if there will be a tier below Sport, perhaps an all-polycarbonate or even "fluoroelastomer" (i.e., rubber) case.  Beyond the presumably cheaper cost of materials and construction, the more plasticky material could give permission to be a little thicker than then-contemporary watches (and so reduce costs again).

If this plasticky direction were taken, Swatch would be in some serious trouble.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Apple Watch sales expectations - UPDATED 1

I’ve revised my thoughts on how Apple Watch will sell.  My initial thoughts were that it would do okay but people would hold out for a next generation.  I think this is largely right but that I ignored a second set of buyers and so ended up underestimating sales for the first generation.  For many buyers, they will see the limited set of apps, unknown use-case, etc. and so defer.  However, I think a second set of buyers will snap this up – gift givers for whom these issues really aren't that important (because they don't need to use the watch).

There hasn’t really been an easy Apple gift for a while.  iPods and then iPads fit the bill as a gift but both markets saturated pretty quickly; how many of each can someone really use – especially as there weren’t big changes after a while?  iPhones are a tough gift as they either impose a subscription obligation or have a very high price tag (two years of service as part of the gift?).  Looking at Apple Watch, the wide price points make it a perfect “Dads and Grads” type gift and one that has more cultural resonance than iPods or iPads ever did.  As a luxury/signifier gift, the limited and uncertain functionality should not be a handicap.  Watches remain a common commemorative/notable gift and they are clearly not selected for functionality or practicality.

As a result, I suspect May and June sales are going to be far higher than expected at launch and that we will see unbelievable holiday sales in 2015 and 2016 (assuming a thinner version is launched in time for holiday 2016).  I'm going to guess 6 to 10m watches in May + June (and one week of April) but that 80% will be small Sports for a $400 average selling price.

UPDATE: Given the substantially delayed shipping times, I think a lot of potential gift givers will fall away as the shipping dates will miss graduation.  At the same time, the heavy load on the online store (which can handle probably 4m sales based on iPhone releases) suggests that there was a LOT of demand.  The store regularly crashed for me when checking order status (placing the order was fine though).  Finally, the significant shipping delays suggest there won't be much supply (if any) on hand in stores, further reducing sales.  So I think we are at the low end of 6m for the first quarter of release but only because of constrained supply.

Friday, March 6, 2015

just for fun

Why is this photo (of the removal of a block of ice from a Lake in Wisconsin) the illustration for an article about the jobs report?  Some kind of strange metaphor for defrosting a frozen job market?

pet peeve on GDP reporting

Why do writers regularly compare market caps and other wealth measures with GDP of countries?

It is really quite meaningless and shameless.  Now, for a market cap to equal the estimated value of a country - that would be awesome.

For the most egregious example of this, see this gem.  For a move in the right direction, see this that compared Glencore's revenues with Ukraine's GDP.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Subprime Auto Loans

Wells Fargo's announcement of a cap on its subprime auto loan business is puzzling (WF announced that subprime will make up no more than 10% of its auto portfolio).  I wonder if the real approach is more complicated - WF will tighten its underwriting standards in a way that is expected to limit growth in subprime loans.  And, to signal to competitors its expected price discipline, it stated the 10% cap (i.e., WF will draw the line around here for its underwriting standards - it is at about 10% today).

All of this could be bad news for auto sales and manufacturers (but good news for creditworthy buyers faced with a glut of unsold mid/low priced cars and hungry manufacturers).

Monday, February 23, 2015


Funny how asymcar began almost two years ago, well before breaking stories about potential Apple engagement in the automotive space.  Mr. Dediu has been consistently ahead of the curve and more thoughtful than others.  This is just another example of that pattern.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Apple and detail

Just a small note on attention to detail.

Observing the unwritten rule that watch and clock hands should be placed at the "10:10" position in photographs, Apple does the same in its illustrations of the Apple Watch.

The attention to detail is that even the digital displays adhere to the 10:10 convention (as you can see, the analog time is actually 10:09:30 so the digital display is 10:09).
Given this conscious effort, I wonder why, in some cases, Apple sets the time to 10:09:00 rather than 10:09:30?  I do not think it is carelessness.

Friday, January 9, 2015

apple watch

I wonder if Apple went with the S1 SIP to permit upgrades to the Apple Watch over time?  It would go a long way to answering questions about obsolescence and longevity.