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).