I believe in my lifetime we will implement much of the science fiction narrative as it stands today. But I hope to live a long time, and from a business perspective I am worried that most of the big tech companies are way over their skis in the promises they are making of commercial realities versus inspirational demos, and eventually will pay the price for it.
We have just lived through an anomalous period of growth. Over-promises in the next few years could, if the market turns, do more damage than good.
History now shows that the table stakes for developing a competitive mobile OS are about a billion dollars. (You can extract those numbers from HP’s acquisition of webOS from Palm, from BlackBerry’s BB10 efforts, and probably somewhere in Microsoft’s accounts.) But that’s only the beginning; then you need handsets that will run it, and a broader strategy to build an ecosystem that will act as a virtuous circle. Get it wrong, and the writedowns are multiple billions. The downside is far greater than the initial cost (though the upside is, hey, an ecosystem).
Question now is which other platforms will demonstrate this. Wearables? IoT? AI assistants?
A game only for the biggest and boldest.
We are beginning to see the early stages of a new product era at Apple. New devices are being introduced that will ultimately be able to handle many of the tasks that we currently give iPhone. In 2015, Apple unveiled its first wearables platform with Apple Watch. Seventeen months later, Apple has sold 15 million Apple Watches. Earlier this month, Apple unveiled its second wearables platform with AirPods. These devices are going to be positioned as monitoring devices that guide us through our daily schedule.
In this new Apple Experience era, the user determines the products that add the most value to their lives. For some people, wearables will play a crucial role. These users will assign products like Apple Watch and AirPods tasks that are currently given to iPhones, iPads, and Macs. In this example, while wearables gain value, it is not a given that the iPhone would lose value.
Instead of becoming something like an iPod, a product that will lose nearly all of its value over time due to other products handling the same roles, the iPhone will likely be able to retain its value because of the camera. The iPhone will be able to stand out among a world of wearables given its powerful cameras and ability to extract data from a scenario. Hundreds of millions of people will find a need for such a product, even if it isn’t the hub of their digital lives. By turning the iPhone into an augmented reality device, Apple will be positioning the iPhone as the most powerful piece of glass in our lives, and it all started with the iPhone 7.
Spectacles will naturally be compared to Google Glass, Alphabet’s mostly fruitless foray into wearable face-based computing. But because they are sunglasses, they will be less conspicuous than Google’s. They’re cheaper, too — not even one-tenth of the price as Glass, which debuted at $1,500. But just as Google did, Snap is marketing Spectacles with a high-fashion gloss. The product debuted in the glossy WSJ Magazine, and Spiegel was photographed wearing Spectacles by fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld.
Yes, every bozo will compare them. But besides a few superficial attributes those two products are not comparable at all.
(Especially those who thought that by now we all would be wearing Google Glass will have a hard time contextualizing this. Fun tech press times.)
(For what it’s worth, I was always convinced Google Glass was dead on arrival for several reasons. I don’t think that about Snap’s Spectacles. At all.)
The latest record is an incredibly low bid of 2.42 cents / kwh solar electricity in Abu Dhabi. That is an unsubsidized price.
Let me put that in perspective. The cost of electricity from a new natural gas powerplant in the US is now estimated at 5.6 cents / kwh. (pdf link) That is _with _historically low natural gas prices in the US, which are far lower than the price of natural gas in the rest of the world.
This new bid in Abu Dhabi is _less than half _the price of electricity from a new natural gas plant.
What’s more, it’s _less than the cost of the fuel _burned in a natural gas plant to make electricity – without even considering the cost of building the plant in the first place.
The solar bid in Abu Dhabi is not just the cheapest solar power contract ever signed – it’s the cheapest contract for electricity ever signed, anywhere on planet earth, using any technology.
Amazing. Puts especially an interesting context on electric cars.
To get a sense on the cost cutting, here is a good data point: Rocket Internet has lost 37% of its staff over the last months. Down from 1.496 to 937. (via, German)
A holding cutting down its own core organisation like that is as good a canary as any.
At the end of the day, Rocket Internet remains a holding building companies in difficult markets around the globe with no consumer facing scale effects of its own. It is becoming increasingly clear that this is not going to be a winning strategy.1
In fact, the main question investors should raise is wether Rocket Internet even has an overall long-term strategy.
The more compelling element of the system is the live view of the world. The lower two thirds of the screen depict the car’s surroundings as seen by the spinning LIDAR system on the roof. When pedestrians cross the street, you can see them. When the car’s following another vehicle, you see it.
It’s not necessary info, but it’s reassuring. You know the way you can watch a human driver and have a good idea of whether she sees that jaywalker up ahead? The screen lets you do the same thing, assuring you know the car is aware of the threat you’ve spotted.
Uber needs to think of the passenger in the back seat. Actually, eventually, every one going into autonomous cars will have to. Uber just is there first. (Not coincidentally.)
Imagine how powerful the next iPad Pro and the one after that will be.
Few seem to realize the trajectory Apple’s A series chips are on; and, with them, iOS.
Not to far in the future, every current iOS device will beat every even slightly comparably priced device running Windows or Android on every benchmark you can throw at them. That is so remarkable I’d even say it is just plain weird.
(The reasons are scale, integration at just the right stages and having created a place that attracts top talent.)
Ben Thompson at Stratechery (paywall):
This seems so clearly to be the future for Apple: a Watch that does not replace the iPhone, but enhances it with body-sensing and notification capabilities; AirPods that do not replace the iPhone, but enhance it with an always available voice assistant. In a year or two there will probably be an augmented reality product, still with the iPhone as the center. And then one day, perhaps without anyone really noticing, the shift will happen: just as the Mac went from hub to just another device, the iPhone may do the same as all of Apple’s wearables replace its functionality not individually but collectively.
The Watch’s original sin was trying to pull that future forward way too soon, and for trying to do it alone; Apple didn’t build the iPhone as a digital hub, they started with the iPod and ended up here. When and if the Watch reaches its full potential it will follow the same sort of path from focused product to obsoleting supercomputer — or at least one piece of it.
Access Industries has taken control of global music stream Deezer. The move advances the goal of the conglomerate, which also owns Warner Music Group and has made major investments in Songkick ($25M), Shazam ($9M) and in 2013–14 Beats ($120M million), to become an integrated full stack music company.
Someone is trying to build a new kind of music giant.