Friday, October 13, 2017

Kobe Steel Surprises

I wonder if any auto manufacturers experienced surprising crash test results that can be explained by the Kobe Steel misstatements.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Apple's i

I woke up this morning thinking about the Dustin Curtis tweet suggesting that Jony Ive said: "he believes Apple will be a health company in 20-30 years".

I wonder if this is less speculation than a very specific path Apple is working on.

Aging populations and health: If there is a market that is set to grow and is underserved, it is the health and wellness needs of an aging population.  It's a large market - one large enough to move the needle even for an Apple.  Apple is focused on health.  Apple is also focused on "where the puck is going to be".

Technical sophistication:  Some products require integrating the full stack, including custom silicon.

Camera experience:  By some measures, Apple is the most used camera in the world.  They certainly take cameras very seriously.

Augmented reality:  Apple is all-in on augmented reality and machine vision.  "Understanding" and simplifying images to pull out key elements is hard.  I think the A11's neural engine is a first step there.

Privacy:  An omnipresent product, especially one with insight into your life, should have a reputation for privacy.  Many potential competitors would be hard pressed to credibly show that they have privacy as a primary concern.

Manufacturing:  Apple is a hardware company.

An artificial eye could bring these elements together.  A trustworthy camera that will need to interpret images on the fly to present a simplified version of the world for the millions of people who will be facing weakening eyesight as they age.

For fun: just look at the shape of Apple Park!

More fun:  they can just call it the "i" and drop the mike.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

physiological constants and constraints

I wonder how much discontinuity is created by physical, in particular physiological, constraints?  And I wonder how much those discontinuities are exploited in investment decisions and forecasts.  I'm thinking about things such as body sizes, minimum sleep periods, and elimination functions and their relationship with economies of scale and extrapolation of product sizes and uses.  For example, cars have a hard time getting smaller than a certain limit because people generally fit within a certain band (and so you get oddly proportioned vehicles such as a Smart).

Friday, August 18, 2017

American Political Parties and Trump

Political party affiliation in the U.S. is a funny thing.  The fluidity with which people can switch parties and the lack of any requirement beyond indicating one's current preference mean that being a "member" of a party is really based on personal integrity.

Which brings us to the funny situation of the Republican party not being able to use expulsion as leverage over Trump (unclear if they would want to expel but not even having the tool is a handicap).  Trump, of course, is not a Republican (or a Democrat) but, more importantly, as someone without personal integrity, the traditional constraint on abuse of a claim of membership falls away.  And so he hijacked the Republican party machinery and nomination rules to become president.

I raise this because such a threat of expulsion (during the election or now, during the presidency) could spur the creation of new parties (with new platforms and alignments) but, unfortunately, because the threat cannot be invoked, that creation remains unlikely.

And so, we will have a populist democrat president in three years who will likely be just as inept and destructive (albeit in different forms and perhaps less obvious forms) as Trump.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

local politics and residential real estate funds

How much will the increased presence of residential real estate funds in some neighborhoods affect local voting?  And what are the likely changes in voting patterns for things like tax increases for schools?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wearables

To get a sense of what Apple's "wearables" business might look like, I think of:

1) the Watch as an iPod;
2) AirPods as an iPhone accessory; and
3) Beats as transient.

From that view, given that iPods sold about 40-50 million per year from 2006-2012, it seems plausible that the Watch could sell 40 million per year.  As noted before, the Watch is cheaper than most iPods were and is far more versatile than any except the Touch.

Airpods have a meaningful cost but are not outrageously expensive relative to other truly wireless headphones.  If I treat any headphones (including Beats) with a W1 (which is really the key to the AirPod), I can imagine 10% of iPhone buyers also buying AirPods.  Approximately 200m iPhones are sold each year so this is about 20m AirPods a year.

I think Beats sales (actually, sales of all expensive large headphones, of which Beats is the largest brand) are a bit of a fad so, except for those that include the W1, I assume Beats withers away over time.

Based on this and an average Watch price of $300 (this excludes accessory sales) and AirPod price of $150, we see easily $3.7b per quarter in revenues without any significant advances over what is out there today (some incremental advances over time of course, but no sharp breaks).  Assuming that accessories, Beats, AppleTV and others in Apple's "other products" segment are non-zero, it seems reasonable to think there is well more than an additional $4b in revenue a year from the Watch and AirPods.  Or, as one might think of them, from the S and W series chips.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

international soups

Just realized that miyeok guk is a close cousin of caldo verde.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Apple iPad Pricing

If Apple is sincere in its stated belief that iPad is the future of personal computing (i.e., “PCs aretrucks”), Apple’s relatively low pricing strategy makes great sense.  Setting up an established base of users can create a virtuous circle of application development to defend against an assault by an alternative future.  And setting such a base up quickly makes sense if establishing that defensive wall is the goal.

I say "relatively" low pricing strategy as I know iPad prices are not low.  But they are lower than one might expect of Apple.  This is a company that still wants to make sure it makes money when it sells something and so maintains healthy unit profit margins.

To balance these competing goals (margin and scale), Apple must keep its prices realistic and this has resulted in a pace of advancement that is likely slower than what Apple is actually capable of (iPads could probably run macOS if they had to).  But that is fine if advancement isn’t necessary to grow the market or, put alternatively, if the market can be grown more quickly through price than with specifications.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

check back in October 2017 and 2018

Apple hired a person who may be the smartest person on the planet to play a large role in Siri.  I know him personally and believe we will see something remarkable over the next 6-18 months.  Just wanted to set this out now for credibility (or claimchowder) in the future.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

transportation as a service

There has been a lot of good thinking and action regarding transportation as a service.  BMW, Daimler, and Ford have all made announcements and begun initiatives here.


I wonder how much these efforts will echo their previous attempts in transportation services?  Recall that each of GM, Chrysler, and Ford owned the US rental car industry until very recently.  This was for a very different reason (to ensure vehicle deliveries) but still, there is an echo of the past here...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

iBook

If Apple decides to make a notebook form iOS device, the iBook name is waiting (the last iBook was in 2006).  Aside from the iMac, the name fits perfectly with the MacBook, iPhone, and iPad naming conventions.

iPads already support trackpad like cursor control (and I guess some iPhones do too?).  And iPad Pros seem focused on keyboard support.  So offering a better keyboard and a trackpad experience is not a big jump.

I wonder what will be the catalyst (nominal or real) for something like this.  Office is already available.  Screen size is already there.  Maybe an issue with the ergonomics of touch on a vertical screen?

Monday, February 6, 2017

AirPods!

Got my AirPods today.  Some quick observations and a rant about poor customer service...

Fit.  I knew they would not feel super secure because I already knew that regular wired EarPods don’t fit well in my ears (and most reviews have said they are pretty much the same shape).  So I won’t be running or doing cartwheels with these but that is not a surprise or a disappointment.  What is interesting is, as many other people have noted, the lack of wires means they feel more secure than regular EarPods because there is simply less weight trying to pull them out of my ears.

Sound.  They sound fine.

Controls.  I found that my right pod did not respond to the Siri double-tap at first.  But, after about ten minutes, it started to work (but still less consistently than the left).  Perhaps I wasn’t double-tapping the right way but, really, how many ways can there be to double tap?  I’ll keep an eye on this.

Siri.  As others have said, Siri seems to work better on the AirPods than on the phone (she is more likely to understand what I am saying).  A feature request: I would like to be able to control the volume of Siri’s confirmation beeps.  A related feature request:  An app (like for Apple Watch) would be a nice addition, especially as AirPod controls are scattered throughout the phone.

Pairing.  The initial pairing is as seamless as universally noted.  However, I’ve found that opening the case near my iPad doesn’t trigger the battery display as, I think, it is supposed to (the iPad is clearly connected as I can switch my audio to the AirPods from the iPad easily and I can force the battery widget to show me the AirPod battery remaining).  It works on my phone so I’m pretty sure I’m doing it right.

Purchase.  I used in-store pick-up today and had the WORST experience I've ever had at an Apple Store.  Very disappointing.  My intake person was too busy talking to a co-worker to help even though she was standing at the entrance.  I opened the Apple Store App to show her the barcode and she said I was doing it wrong (I was not, as I showed her).  She then stood next to me for 10 minutes, playing with her phone, not seeming to notice or care that I hadn't received my product (the store was pretty much empty with about a dozen staffers wandering around, straightening up, etc.).  Finally, I asked if it was supposed to take this long.  She seemed puzzled and then said "I don't know if they are picking it up from the back or here.".  She wanders off.  About five minutes later, after I complained to another staffer, she comes over, super proud that she has the AirPods.  They were sitting in a drawer about two steps from where we were waiting.  She said: (i) it wasn't her job to intake customers (confusing then, why she processed my pick-up); (ii) she wasn't allowed to go to the counter to get merchandise (seems strange that she then broke some rule to do so?); and (iii) I was having a bad day (true - because of her).  The fact that she didn't care that her own customer was standing around waiting for something that ought to take maybe 2 minutes (again, the store was pretty much empty with tons of staffers unoccupied) and then said it wasn't her job to help me was unbelievable.  Apple Stores can be a little bit slow-motion but this was just rude and antagonistic behavior.  I hope she gets fired.