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Showing posts from January 21, 2018

Apple Store Comes To South Korea

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Apple does remarkably well in South Korea, especially considering it's the home of both Samsung and LG.

Now Apple is upping the stakes and has opened a retail Store in the country's capital Seoul. Given the success it has enjoyed in countries backed with a retail operation, I think it's likely this is the start of something big.

South Koreans are affluent, fashion and style conscious; and for a certain section of society at least, keen to  flaunt their wealth.

All of which sounds like a recipe for Apple to come in and clean up.

Sonos Looks To Get Out Ahead Of HomePod Threat

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If I was a betting man I'd wager that most of Sonos' customers are Apple customers too. So the prospect of competition from Apple on its own turf must be frightening for the Home Audio company. In fact there's a part of me that's still somewhat surprised Apple didn't snap up Sonos once it decided that the smart home speaker was where it was headed next.
With the Apple bulldozer heading straight for it, and the HomePod's retail arrival imminent, Sonos has reacted.
Its first play is to make a noise about how open it is and how many music services it supports. Which is all very noble, but isn't likely to sway anybody's buying decision if we're being honest.
The second play may be more interesting though. For US and UK customers Sonos is selling a bundle consisting of two Sonos Ones at a 25% discount. Putting it on the market at the same price as a single HomePod.
That gives a customer a number of reasons to choose Sonos over Apple. Firstly it's a …

LG Ends The Year On A Low - More Losses And Confusion On Its Strategy

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LG Mobile had a pretty awful 2017, ending the year with stonking $650m loss, and no end of controversy over the quality of the screen in the Pixel 2 XL, which it builds for Google.
Now that loss looks bad, but it's actually an improvement on 2016's number, a sizeable one too, losses for the year were down by 40%.
The problem for LG is that it isn't selling many phones - less than 14 million and the trend is down year over year. When Apple and Samsung sell that many phones in a weekend that's a less than impressive number.
It's definitely not the phones that are the problem. From the V20 forward it's been one of the front runners in the mobile marketspace. Both the G6 and V30 are excellent phones, but still nobody is buying them.
The problem, as ever, remains the name. LG isn't a name that fills the general public with warm, fuzzy feelings of technical innovation. In that respect it sits far behind Apple, Samsung and Sony.  It's even behind second rank …

Amazon Go: The Future Of Convenience Shopping, But At What Cost?

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This is Amazon Go, the first real fruit borne of the purchase of Whole Foods business. With no checkouts, no queues and significant technology dependence, the first store opened in Seattle this week and customers have been flocking in.
The technology is breathtaking, if reports on the experience are true. Think of all of the variables that make managing a supermarket complex, spillages, breakages, customers changing their minds or bumping into each other. Amazon claims to be able to sort through all of this data and work out what you're picking off the shelves and charge you for it, all in real time.

In a store the size of the Seattle store where Amazon Go has launched, you would expect to find two or three checkout staff - more for a store open extended hours. Removing those roles reduces Amazon's costs significantly, which means products can be cheaper.

That's a change which isn't a plus for some people - namely the staff who won't be employed. We've already…

Burger King Explains Net Neutrality

Burger King set out to explain net neutrality using the Whopper. Great idea and it clearly meets some of its purpose, but in a country with so many angry people this seems like quite a risky move.
Withholding a Whopper from a hangry American is a recipe for a punch in the face or something worse.
Meanwhile back in the real world several states are enacting local legislation to maintain net neutrality. Whether that works when the federal government seems determined to dismantle it remains to be seen.

Qualcomm Hit With Billion Euro Antitrust Judgement In Europe

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Qualcomm abused it's position in the mobile processor market to buy Apple's business between 2011 and 2016, the EU has ruled. The company has been hit with a billion Euro fine, but says it will appeal.

How will this play out in the company's disputes with Apple and Broadcom?

Apple is working hard to reduce the licensing fees it pays for using Qualcomm technology and one of its methods appears to be damaging the chip maker's share price sufficiently that Apple friendly Broadcom is able to force through a take over.

Having successfully driven an investigation in Korea which resulted in a similar fine, Apple will now be throwing it's support into an investigation in California.

Qualcomm's share price was trading below the Broadcom offer price before this judgement. A further drop resulting from this award and the prospect of another in the US only makes it harder for the company's shareholders to resist the offer.

Apple Stores Have Demonstrably Changed The Customer Support Experience

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Apple's Store serve as more than just a high street interface to its hardware platforms and related products; it has allowed Apple to fundementally change the way customer support is provided - and for those customers who have access to the Apple retail network it has become something which is being taken for advantage.
This story on Business Insider amply demonstrates this fact.
Here's an iPhone owner who, having smashed their iPhone by repeatedly dropping it, walks into a Store without a prior appointment, has the iPhone fixed within a matter of hours and then does it all again when the abused iPhone gives up the ghost. Then she complains about the service she received.
No matter how chaotic or disorganised the experience was for the writer, that's still pretty impressive service.
Perhaps what's missing here is a bit of perspective. The experience of going through the same repair process with other smartphone OEMs. 
I recently had to have the screen replaced on my G…

The Next Step In Turning The iPad Into A Computer: USB-C

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Over the last two years Apple has taken giant strides in moving its iPad from its 'big-screen iPhone' roots and turning it into a real computer.

Save for some minor niggles, an iPad could probably replace a laptop for around 60% of users, but where it falls down is expandability. The iPad is just too limited by its single Lightning port.
By virtue of its standard expansion ports, a Surface Pro can serve duty as a tablet, laptop or desktop computer. The desktop dock in particular, is a work of genius. With one connection a tablet becomes a full features desktop computer. That's multiple monitors (three including the Surface's screen) and external expansion to meet most user's needs.
Even without the dock, you can hook the Surface up to multiple monitors and external devices.
The iPad really needs similar functionality.
Yes, you can replicate the iPad screen on a larger monitor and it is possible to use a bluetooth keyboard, but its a very poor facsimile of a real d…

Motherwell Parodies Man United Beautifully

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Manchester United publishing a self indulgent welcome video for Alexis Sanchez following his signing from Arsenal.

Motherwell completed the signing of Peter Hartley and pulled off one of the funniest burns ever, parodying the United video.
Even the accompanying tweet manages to judge it's tone perfectly. Yep, there's winning and there's 'winning' - and Motherwell are quite clearly winning right now.
We're all Motherwell supporters now. 


What's Really Going On With The iPhone X

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Two stories surfaced over the last couple of days which prejudge some of the information which Apple will release as part of its earnings statement next week. The first referencing comments from KGI's Apple expert Ming-Chi Kuo, who claims that the iPhone X will cease manufacture shortly and will not form part of Apple's range when the new line up is announced in the fall.
That doesn't seem like great news for sales of the X, and the second story works with that to cast some more shade on Apple's $1,000 flagship.
In this case the story is that the iPhone 8 has outsold the iPhone X and the latter device made up only 20% of iPhone sales in 2017.
Now the first story seems quite feasible. The next iPhone X (XI?) will almost certainly have a smaller notch - if any at all - and  may see the return of Touch ID, given that these two features have been sticking points for sales of the current model. Which would then make the iPhone X a particularly odd bedfellow in the iPhone r…

Rupert Murdoch Wants Facebook To Pay For Content

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Facebook is culling its New feed, focusing back upon the things which made Facebook interesting in the first place - posts from your freinds and family. That's probably a direct result of the backlash against perceived interference in the last US election by foreign agencies pushing their own agendas.
That Americans are prepared to believe that their elections haven't been controlled by outside interests before now, shows that they are either incredible gullible or in denial.
Who owns the TV, the newspapers, the magazines, the news site? People pushing their own political agenda.
It's not just the US either. Take the UK as a prime example. Since the early eighties the driving force behind electoral success has been Rupert Murdoch - an Australian, with a huge media empire pushing a message for the political party whose policies benefit Rupert Murdoch.
Newsflash, Murdoch has been involved in ownership of US media companies  since 1973.
So does it matter whether US elections…

Sony Xperia Pro To Ditch Headphone Jack, Gain Multiport Dongle

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One of the valid complaints that oft gets repeated when discussing the new trend of doing away with headphone jacks, is that it becomes impossible to both charge and use wired headphones together.
Whether that be via the supplied digitally connected headphones or a adapter / DAC there's only one connection going on at a time.
Sony's upcoming Xperia Pro may have the answer to that particular problem, because if you look at the schematic diagram leaked by the FCC, it has a dongle which supports both power and headphones at the same time. That clearly suggests there's no headphone jack on the new Xperia, but it at least offers something of a solution to the problem.
Of course, for some headphone jack challenged phones there are ways to get past this problem. There are third-party Lightning dongles which support power and audio; whilst for USB-C connected Android owners whose phones support the PD standard, a third-party USB-C hub will do the job.
Still, it looks like Sony wi…

Sphero Cutting Staff After Missing Holiday Targets

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Sphero is laying off staff after holiday sales failed to meet expectations and its high profile licensing agreements for Star Wars spin offs weren't sufficient to maintain its existing business model. The company plans to switch focus from consumer to education.
Sphero's main products - Sphero, Ollie and film spin off versions of the same - are somewhat underwhelming devices. They over promise and under deliver and kids, and presumably adults too, lose interest pretty quickly. Those cool videos that market the toys? Turns out they're as much fiction as the characters Sphero licenses.
Things aren't likely to get easier by switching to education. Everybody wants a piece of the STEM pie and there are so many robot kids for educators to choose from, the Sphere's high price and functional problems are going to make it a pretty tough sell.
Kids need robotic kits that are cheap, self assembled and encourage expansion and free thinking.  None of those are currently Sphero…

Nissan Introduces Solar Solution To The UK

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Having been the first to market with an electric vehicle, Nissan is now offering UK  householders an end to end solution which will bring together solar panels, battery storage and electric vehicles to reduce energy consumption by as much as 66%.

The Nissan Energy Solar initiative puts Nissan directly in competition with Tesla, which also offers a full energy needs solution. The difference being that you can now buy Nissan's solution, and start saving money and the world today. 

With the Leaf already a popular EV, and it's xStorage home battery ( using recovered Leaf cells) a known quantity; the new part of this offering is the solar panel.

This comes in the flavours and will cost towards of £3000.

A excellent solution to both rising energy costs and global temperatures, hampered only by being offered in the least sunny party of the world.

Still, chances are that Nissan will bring the same offering to other countries in the not too distant future.

Mobile Wallet Spending Up 140% Down Under

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Austalians are using their mobile phones and wearables to spend dollars in ever higher numbers. ANZ Australia reported a year on year growth of 140% in December, and a 23% increase on its rolling three month average.

Customers want to move to more secure, biometrically protected, and more convenient methods of paying for goods.
I suspect the numbers would be higher, but for the number of retailers who haven't upgraded to Paywave capable payments machines; or have declined to enable tap to pay on terminals that support it.
With $1 in every $20 spent via mobile wallets, this may be the last year that retailers can afford to avoid joining the bandwagon.

BMW Makes Apple Pay A Subscription Service

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BMW will charge US customers an annual fee for the use of Apple's Car Play going forward.

This is a move which promises to hurt the wallets of owners who keep their cars longer than the standard three year ownership period manufacturers would like to see, as well as those buying secondhand. 

The cost of Car Play is currently $300, a one off payment which enables the service indefinitely. 

In future the cost will be $80 per annum, with the first year covered in the purchase price of the car. Owners who keep their car for three or four years end up better off, those who keep them longer lose out. 

Given the payback period, it seems unlikely that this move is driven by financial motives. At least, not it terms of the cost / benefit of charging for Car Play. 

No the most likely driver for this move is to gently persuade BMW's customers to use BMW's connected drive feature and Apps to Auto.

This allows BMW to retain control of both the user experience and the customer interaction; w…

Leaked Memo Warns Snap Employees Not To Leak

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Snap has decided that enough is enough and warned all employees that leaking company information will be punished by dismissal, fines, prison and eternal damnation in the burning fire of hell.

This follows a number of damaging leaks showing that the company is losing the battle against Facebook and Instagram. 

The memo carrying this dire warning has subsequently leaked.

So that went well then.