Apple is neither inmortal, nor invulnerable

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Last financial results from Apple show how the company is as exposed as the rest of the world to macroeconomic issues. The economic conditions have impacted on its numbers and have pointed out that its greater strenght is also a potential weakness.

The number of iPhones sold has grown a mere 1 per cent, but next months will prove difficult for Apple, which according to analysts will see how iPhone sales decrease a 10-15% on the quarter ending in March and another 10% on the quarter ending in June when compared to the same periods last year.

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We’ll see what happens with iPhone 7, but I would pay special attention to WWDC’16 and the new features that iOS 10 could bring to the table. Specially convergence ones. Given that Microsoft has unified their desktop and mobile platforms and Google reportedly plans to do something similar, there has to be some movement from Apple here too.

If it’s not there, I don’t have a clear idea how Apple could stop this turning point in the current situation. They’ve got no clear product to replace iPhone’s success in the near future: the Apple Watch will have to show a real change, and the car (if any) is still far ahead.

I won’t say Apple users/investors should be worried –some charts to check here-. I’d say, though, they should be worried about starting to be worried. Apple is not inmortal.

Source: Apple – Press Info – Apple Reports Record First Quarter Results

The next Amazon phone won’t be made by Amazon

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According to The Information, Amazon is coming back to the smartphone arena. Their first try was a disaster in nearly every possible way -too many gimmicks, too pricey for example- but now they’re taking a far more conservative approach.

Instead of building a phone themselves, Amazon is going to launch several devices from third parties that will integrate Amazon operating system, Fire OS, onto those smartphones.

The bet now is not on the hardware side, and the attack goes straight against Android as a platform. Amazon has never licensed this operating system on the tablet market, but this data reveals they’re considering this on the smartphone side.

This is an interesting, more conservative strategy. They won’t risk that much and the move makes sense. They have replacements for several Google Play services (beginning with Amazon Appstore), so they have a pretty compelling alternative to promote their contents and services.

I really don’t get why Amazon didn’t do this in the first place.

The smarwatch declaration of independence

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I’ve been writing about smartwatches since Pebble surprised us with a device that hinted at a revolution. As of now, smartwatches are the revolution that never was, but maybe they were just too early to the party. Maybe they’re waiting their moment.

Walt Mossberg talks about his experience with the Apple Watch on his last column at The Verge, and there are some interesting thoughts there. The first one: he wouln’t miss the device that much in case he lost it. The second: smartwatches aren’t smart enough. The third:

I don’t think the smartwatch needs one “killer app”, but I do believe it needs a capability more compelling than what’s out there so far. It needs to do something, all on its own, that’s useful, quick, secure and cool.

What I do think smartwatches need to do is to be able to work all by themselves. They need a declaration of independence from our smartphones.

This will be the killer app they need.

 

TV content is way different than web content

Chris DeVille writes about TV channels:

It stands to reason that TV networks are facing a similar situation — when you think about it, aren’t channels and websites essentially the same thing? Both function as containers, providing steady streams of content for targeted populations. Just as you used to discover a few favorite sites and check up on them throughout the day, you would flip on the TV and surf between your go-to channels until something stimulating draws you in.

No, they aren’t. There’s one big difference: anyone can publish something on the internet (video included). Not everyone can have its own TV channel.

That was the past and is the present, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be the future. TV’s future is the internet, so those two kinds of content will merge effectively into one.

As the author explains, not many of them will survive. “Channels with narrow but dedicated audiences will survive“, he points out, and I guess and the same will happen for websites that want to monetize.

That’s tough for the good old TV :/

WhatsApp ditches its annual $1 subscription to kill the SMS

I paid that dollar only once, and I suspect a lot of people didn’t pay a dime. Jan Koum’s argument sounds right, but I suspect the new goal is much more interesting for Facebook and WhatsApp.

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SMS alerts from businesses are currently the only kind of text messages we get in Spain. WhatsApp is much more convenient for this -almost everybody uses WhatsApp over here- and the situation is identical in many other markets in which WhatsApp can kill SMS for ever.

I’d like to see other alternatives winning on this area -Telegram, Signal or Threema are nice ones-. WhatsApp hasn’t really grown much (in features) since it was acquired by Facebook, but it’s the de facto standard for instant messaging in many country , so that’s a battle we’ve already lost. We are replacing a telecom’s de facto standard -one which made them earn piles of money- with a propietary one from a company that likes to collect our data.

Not such a good deal.

 

Netflix and the ‘Allow Piracy Until Popular’ model

Netflix has had a spectacular growth in the last few years. Partly because the great content, and partly because Netflix policy on how users can enjoy the service has been pretty lax.

You can share your monthly subscription with others (not necessarily your relatives) and until last thursday, you could use proxies to access Netflix from other countries that had no access to the service. That was the case where I live in Spain for many years, but last october Netflix finally was available here.

In the last few weeks we’ve seen how Netflix  has announced a global expansion. That shows clearly how mature the service is, but that ambition coincides with the decision to ban proxies, even if users don’t care about that. I suspect the sharing policy will change too soon enough.

Piracy was good until popular again. It has been so with several software platforms, with music services, with console games, with YouTube -as Alex pointed out– and, of course, with Netflix.

GoPro’s problem: action cameras are not smartphones

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It said it expects fourth-quarter revenue to be about $435 million — versus $511 million expected, according to Bloomberg — and $1.6 billion for 2015.

GoPro situation is not terrible, but the latest news make one thing clear: an action camera is not an smartphone. Once you buy one of those, you won’t feel the urge to upgrade to a newer, more powerful model.

You probably won’t buy another one. And if you do, you’ll wait years unless you’re a prosumer. As Mike Murphy has written on Quartz, GoPro proves how risky it is to invest in a fad.

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In fact, it’s GoPro’s fault. Their cameras aren’t cheap, but they’re durable, touch, and really good. Obsolescence isn’t such a problem on these devices, and sales suffer because of that.

Xiaomi against imaginary valuations

Investors are taking a second look at China’s high-value startups such as smartphone maker Xiaomi, which is now facing growing pressure to live up to high expectations.

Xiaomi missed its 2015 sales target: they estimated 80 million smartphones shipped, but they weren’t capable of growing that fast and that much. They haven’t surprised us as before, and now the pressure from investors seems to be pretty high.

That’s reasonable, and maybe Xiaomi’s valuation was overestimated. But its business is done in quite the right way -let’s forget the design similarities with Apple-, so we should take that into account.

I can’t help but compare this company with Uber or Airbnb, which certainly offer us really good alternatives on their segments, but at the cost of companies that work according to the current regulation. Until that regulation covers that kind of ‘sharing economy‘ (great euphemism), they are doing something that could be (or has been) considered a fraud in many countries.

Unfair comparison, and unfair valuations anyway.

Source: China’s Xiaomi Under Pressure to Prove Value to Investors

The conquest of Alexa

In the coming weeks, Amazon expects to release a smaller, portable version of its voice-activated tabletop Echo speaker, building off the device’s surprise success.

In 2014 Amazon surprised us with its Fire TV device: you could push a button at the top of the remote to active a universal voice-search function.

In late 2014 there was an even bigger surprise. Amazon wanted to conquer our living room from a different perspective. Not with a smartphone, or a console, or a set-top-box. It wanted to conquer us with a speaker. But a neat one. Amazon Echo was born, and Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, was a cornerstone of that and other products from that point.

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The idea was brilliant then, and is still brilliant today. You could argue that Amazon’s approach to the app store is far from ideal, but they have really good ideas on other segments, though not everything is a success.

So now the rumors are coming: Amazon is preparing a newer, smaller, cheaper version of its Amazon Echo. Its design resembles a beer can, it appears, but there’s a better idea, as Alex Barredo pointed out shortly after the news appeared:

I don’t know if they’d sell millions, but that, for sure, would be pretty interesting too.

Source: Amazon to Release Portable Version of Echo Speaker in Coming Weeks

Remix OS is what Chrome OS should be

A little company called Jide is making something extraordinary: they are showing Google how Android should look and run on the desktop.

Remix OS is based on the Android-x86 project, and from there you’ve got all the advantages on Android combined with desktop-like features like multitasking and multiwindow support, shortcuts and complete mouse support (right click included) or a start menu and a system task bar.

Brilliant.

Google should buy Jide, because this is what the Android-Chrome OS merger should look like.

Source: The excellent Remix OS is bringing Android to every old x86 PC (and Mac)