Yahoo: “In order for us to be confident of achieving volume production of Model 3 by late 2017, we actually have to set a date of mid-2017 and really hold people’s feet to the fire, internally and externally,” Musk said on the call. It’s an odd admission from Musk—essentially admitting that he sets fake deadlines with the assumption that there will be some level of failure along the way. […] You could argue that these games of wishful thinking are just part of Musk’s strategy to assure that Tesla has adequate funding. As Bloomberg’s Tom Randall puts it: “In the more typical expectations game played by publicly traded companies, the 2018 goal just doesn’t make sense. Normally, companies prefer to overperform. Instead, Musk is making the future come early again—only this time, it’s Tesla’s day of reckoning he’s moved up.” It’s like a manifestation of the adage, ‘Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars’. This admission sounds like such an Elon Musk-thing to say. Previously: Jim Cramer on Tim Cook and Elon Musk
NDTV: New Delhi was the survey’s ninth worst city, with an annual average PM2.5 measurement of 122. The dirtiest air was recorded at Zabol in Iran, which suffers from months of dust storms in the summer, and which clocked a so-called PM2.5 measure of 217. The next four were all Indian: Gwalior, Allahabad, Patna and Raipur. Good effort on the government’s part but Delhi’s pollution is still pretty bad. I read this headline on a newspaper’s front page while commuting to my office. On the way back, I walked through a dust storm to reach the closest metro (subway) station. (The irony was displeasing in its entirety, I assure you.) I ride a longer route to get to my office, skipping the closest metro station in favour of one that’s farther, underground and air-conditioned. The station that’s closest to me is chock-full of dust piled by the roadsides. Commuting through it in an open-aired autorickshaw gives me a headache. So…yay?
You’ve probably heard of Panic’s logo(s) system by now — change the logo’s colour scheme through an app and the changes reflect on Panic’s logo at their headquarters in Portland. (My narrative fails to capture the essence with which the idea was conceived. I suggest you read Panic’s blog post and do it justice.) The line that stood out to me from their blog post: I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to change the world, but it’ll change our colors. I’ll leave you with this video by Vox titled ‘What makes a truly great logo‘ — tangentially relevant to the Panic logo. The Panic logo is, to me, Google’s doodles done right.
Enjoy the faster load speeds and the lack of server-botched dialogs. I’ve been meaning to migrate to a better host since a while.
Jim Cramer (via. The Loop): Some guys can get away with financial murder. Other guys can’t get away with anything. […] Musk makes a total mockery of the process, picking numbers that suit him, and is not the least bit concerned about the consequences of being wrong. First, he produces a quarter that is in line, meaning that he’s losing about $19,059 per car, near a record high […] Second, even as he doesn’t even make the number of cars he promised for the quarter – 17,000, below the 19,000 that analysts were expecting – he’s now projecting he will make 500,000 cars by 2018 and a million by 2020. His transparency is shameless. While he boasts the seemingly impossible – and I put “seemingly” in there because otherwise I am just calling him a liar, and I think he believes the numbers – he uses the forecast both to urge you to send more to him and to raise more money from Wall Street. Cramer’s words on Cook: Then there’s Apple and Tim Cook. Cook forecasted almost perfectly for the quarter just reported. Yet I defy you to find more than handful of stories that didn’t typify the quarter as a huge shortfall. It was right dead in line, for heavens’ sakes. I haven’t been up to speed with Tesla’s doings so this is interesting data to keep in mind. I wouldn’t use Musk’s promises to characterise him as being heedless (although I think there is precedent). Instead, as Cramer points, it’s probably a well-planned business decision. I want to touch on the subject of Cook’s reticent speech and Musk’s lack thereof. I see Tesla as a relatively1 young company — not in its age but its reach and influence. This attribute is what puts both companies — Tesla and Apple — in the positions they hold. If Tesla makes a crappy gadget, they’re deemed to be learning from their mistakes. If Apple makes a crappy electronic gadget they’re deemed dead. The company’s existence is in question, Wall Street gives up on Cook and company, and the statement ‘This wouldn’t have happened if Steve Jobs were alive’ is tossed about. I find it remarkable: Apple is the biggest and the most successful company by a handful of measures, it’s one of — if not the — most influential companies in the world, they’ve prospered past their visionary founder, and they’re renowned for being tight-lipped. Yet, Tim Cook talks growth every three months. See also: Tim Cook’s interview with Jim Cramer on CNBC’s YouTube channel. Compared to Apple or Google. ↩︎
Nick Statt, The Verge: The FCC mentions one such bug, called Stagefright, that was discovered first in July and allows attackers to target Android phones via text message. Because nearly every Android phone contains some process for previewing links or files sent via text or MMS, more than 1 billion users are potentially vulnerable. Even after several patches from all parties in the mobile phone business, the bug continues to be exploited in unique ways. Google released an Android update in November patching a number of vulnerabilities, including Stagefright-related ones, but it’s unclear when every handset will receive it. Note that the entire article mentions neither iOS nor the iPhone. I’m curious why the FCC is looking into vulnerabilities now? Stagefright, FCC’s prime example, was discovered almost a year ago.
Kyle Weins, Wired (via. The Loop) : I’ll excuse your double-take, because Huawei is shamelessly copying Apple here. Yes, it migrated the fingerprint sensor like a flounder’s eye and eliminated the mechanical home button, but the two phones share similar antenna bands, styling, and finish. They even sport the same proprietary star-shaped security screw, in exactly the same spots. After all, if you want your phone to resemble an iPhone, you’ve got to nail the details. A quip for your pleasure: Apple is inspiration done right; Huawei is inspiration done wrong.
In an important piece by Hannah Kuchler, Financial Times: Google is sending thousands of these bicycles into rural India. Each carries two Android smartphones and two tablets, with mobile data connections funded by the US search giant. The women who receive the bikes are trained to use the internet themselves before cycling to more villages to train other women. In case you didn’t know how beneficial a large number of users are to Google’s and Facebook’s business. Google and Facebook, sitting on large cash piles and secure in their dominance of western markets, are investing in a variety of separate schemes. Google, with the help of the NGO Tata Trusts, aims to use its internet bikes to reach women in 100,000 villages by the end of the year (women are much less connected in rural areas than men). The company also hopes to launch a pilot of its ambitious “Project Loon” technology this year: sending balloons into the Indian sky to beam down the internet to remote areas. Further: That reflects the solid business logic of investing in connectivity in India and other developing markets. Most importantly, it offers an opportunity to grab hundreds of millions of new smartphone users in the early stages of their adoption, while they are still cementing their habits. Facebook would suffer in a world where Google controls access to consumers through its market-dominating Android operating system, just as Google would struggle to amass data from its users if they spent all their time on the Facebook-owned WhatsApp. And, though the digital advertising market in India is tiny at present — hitting just $940m last year according to research firm eMarketer — Facebook already talks excitedly of multinationals such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé adopting its mobile ads to target rural Indians. […] Further: Of India’s 1.2 billion population, more than 300 million (mainly urban, and upper or middle class) are internet users […] Put another way, Google and Facebook have about 900 million people ripe for the taking, in India alone1. Being first to the party isn’t sure to win you the race but it’s a huge boost. These people don’t treat Google like the verb it is today. When you and I doubt — or don’t know of — something, we think ‘Google it…’. For these folk, ‘Facebook it’ can be a reality. The power of habit-forming can’t be overstated. (Whatsapp benefitted so much by being first to the game. Features such as low data usage, cross-platform presence has led to me hearing almost everyone say ‘Whatsapp them’ instead of ‘text them’. Turning your brand into a verb — or a poster child, in the case of the iPhone and iPod — epitomises success.) Continuing: Caesar Sengupta, Google’s 40-year-old director of product management, says India is proving educational for the company in a number of ways, such as learning how to build products for people whose first experience of the internet is on a smartphone. These lessons will help it develop products suitable not only for other emerging markets but could even improve its apps in the west, he says, where a new generation is coming online mobile-first. “The growth in people adopting smartphones as the first form of computing and in many cases the only form of computing is pretty much unprecedented in history,” he adds. The ‘iPads aren’t real work machines’ narrative seems insignificant now, right? Continuing, on Free Basics: […]former Yahoo senior vice-president and venture capitalist who now runs iSPIRT, a Bangalore-based software trade body, says that if Facebook and Google are prepared to invest their money, rather than coming up with a “cheap hack” such as Free Basics, and if they try to truly understand Indian issues without imposing their own will […] […] In Mumbai Central railway station, Google has just started providing a high-speed wifi connection; it’s the first of a hundred stations that will receive wifi through a Google-RailTel partnership. Just to be clear, Google giving away WiFi and Android phones and tablets with data connections for free is a ‘hack’2 too. It’s a bet for Google. If Google can give the right amount (and kind, in terms of spending potential) of people a taste of the Internet — an endless space of information and entertainment that starts at Google — they have a game-changing advantage. Later, if those people decide to buy a phone for themselves, a smartphone that starts with Google, has an omnipresent Google search-bar right at the home-screen gains an obvious advantage. I mentioned Google’s strategy of giving away stuff for free being a hack. Let me elaborate: The problem at hand is the targetted subset3 of those 900 million people either don’t have the disposable income or lack exposure to have regular access to the Internet — the majority is due to the former. The ideal solution to this problem would be for the government to support these people and help them earn more. Sadly, that can’t happen overnight. Google can deploy their services much faster though. But how long can it sustain this model? And can Google amass enough of a fresh user-base that just can’t do without Google’s services until it must inevitably pull the chord? I couldn’t hazard a guess. But I hope you, dear reader, see Google’s wager. As for the free WiFi at stations, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google’s running analysis of some form on that data. They’re providing the hardware (access points), not assuming the role of an ISP. As of late last year, this is what an Indian publication had to say about what’s in it for Google: Google says that the service will be free to begin with, although it has not yet specified whether it will eventually charge for this WiFi […] On the revenue model, Google hopes that this will be self-sustainable and it will start exploring with different revenue models later on. For now the focus will be on getting the project up and running. Let’s assume Google isn’t running numbers on …
Matthew Miller, Reuters: Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook plans to visit Beijing later this month to meet high-level government officials, at a time when it is facing some setbacks in its most important overseas market, a source familiar with the matter said. If this report holds, I have no shred of doubt Cook’s visiting China for two reasons: Declining iPhone sales and China’s recent ban on some of Apple’s services. Since he may have more of a say in the latter — compared to the former — I think it’ll be one of his top priorities. As I see them, Cook’s core competencies are: Keeping the wheel rolling, managing the company’s structure internally and making sure each segment works in synergy with one another. Managing the interface between Apple and the outside world and, in doing so, bringing the best of Apple to the table; then striking up a bargain and holding firm ground. He’s leader who is focused, fierce and determined while still emanating solid calmness. Crunching numbers. I have never, in my recallable memory, doubted Tim’s leadership. Previously: Tim Cook, in hindsight
I, and a lot of people in my Twitter feed, are seeing broken App Store searches. In my case, searches for apps that I know of — and are spelt properly — show no results. I wouldn’t make much of this though. Apple has acknowledged this glitch and, I’m assuming, it was necessary for some changes on Apple’s end. That still doesn’t make it easy to digest, knowing that people’s bread and butter depends on a functional App Store search.
Mark Gurman, 9to5Mac: The new version of Apple Music, which Apple recently announced has 13 million users so far, focuses on a redesigned user-interface, a few new functions, and reorganization as well as simplification of existing features. The new user-interface ditches the current colorful and translucent look in favor of a simpler design that emphasizes black and white backgrounds and text. For instance, the user interface in the albums view will no longer change in appearance based on the color of a particular album’s art. […] The new interface will also make use of additional 3D Touch shortcut previews […] [It will also] include wide-ranging support for song lyrics. An observation — In reading about this story’s coverage around the Internet, people seem to have pretty much accepted (and indeed are looking forward to) the new Apple Music even though it’s still technically a rumour. Speaks to Apple Music’s current perception. I was starting to take a liking to the current Music UI. I use it, without any complaints, everyday. I see, however, that Apple Music isn’t designed responsibly. I’m so habituated to using it that my subconscious is trained to overlook its complexities. I see this bad design in effect when I find myself tapping a lot to get to — say — a song in a different part of my library. It’s an evocative manifestation of the burden Apple Music is made to bear. Gurman’s report suggests that a visual refresh is on its way. The current Music app looks a lot like its roots were set in the Apple TV design paradigm. Translucency is spread across iOS but iOS’s transparency tips towards the transparent side of the spectrum. The Apple TV’s translucency, on the other hand, has increased opacity; the Music app exudes a similar effect in colouring the playback controls’ canvas with the album art’s hue. Apple has gained a reputation for being bad at cloud services. With Music, my experience has been rock-solid. Anecdotally, playing my songs on a 2G connection has worked fine too. The only time I’ve had problems with Apple Music is when my girlfriend’s iPhone started prompting her to enter my password (I’ve subscribed to the family plan). I had to reset her account and wait for all her songs to download again. It was frustrating. Lastly, I want to touch upon the fact that Apple Music is a really good deal in India. We pay $2 for a single subscription and $3 for the family plan — a fifth of the price in America and the cheapest in the world. Spotify’s (and the like) in-availability in India and feeble local alternatives combine for Apple Music being a no-brainier for someone considering a subscription service on iOS. (I can’t help but think that this is one of the reasons why the new iTunes is delayed. Clubbed releases of presumably similar overhauls makes for better marketing.)
Today, during one of my tea breaks at work, I was reading Jony Ive’s words at the Met Fashion Gala(via. The Loop): […] I was raised with the fundamental belief that it’s only when you personally work a material with your hands that you come to understand its true nature, its characteristics, its attributes and critically of course it’s potential. It’s care that I recognise in every exhibit here today – regardless of whether it’s been made by hand or by a machine. It’s creation has been led by great consideration rather than driven by schedule or price point. And I believe that will resonate with visitors to the exhibition. Ultimately, it is the amount of care invested, whether machine-made or hand-made, that transforms ordinary modest materials into something extraordinary. My notable memories of listening to Jony are always in Apple’s context. He talks about how well crafted Apple’s products are and — say — are ‘designed innovatively to be efficient’. It’s excusable, then, to forget that Jony is also a very big name in industrial design — a huge part of which is dealing with elements and materials. At this point, I started to consider how well Apple is known for its attention to detail and this made me pull my iPhone 6S out of its case (it’s a slippery slab of metal, despite what I’m about to say) and inspect it closely. I started to run my thumb in a circular motion on the back of the phone and I was startled by the feedback. Surface textures — especially in the world of computers — are distinctively matte or glossy. The iPhone 6S’s surface isn’t distinctively classifiable as either. It’s a kind of combination of both. And it’s tough to say which end the 6S texture aligns. I called to our team’s UI/UX person (he’s pursuing his Bachelors in Industrial Design) and asked him to judge — relative to my 6S — the textures of a few objects around us: my MacBook Pro, a Xiaomi phone etc. He wasn’t definitively able to categorise the 6S texture as matte or glossy either. I know this may sound like me making a big deal out of nothing. Most people would call the texture matte1. But doing so, to me, just doesn’t seem right — as if one’s choosing to deny the existence of the other side of a coin just because it’s worn off — and that’s incredibly fascinating to me; enough to write about it. (Do note that the iPhones 6S are made from 7000 series Aluminium. The 6/6+ may not have the same effect.) Jony Ive is undeniably one of the most important people at Apple today. I’d be shocked if people didn’t ignorantly predict Apple’s doom when Jony no longer works at Apple. (Makes me chuckle, in a way, that every time a big name at Apple leaves, dotish ‘doom’ prediction ensues. The way I see it, they were that good a hire.) 1. So why the slippery slab reputation, I ask.↩
Ina Fried, Recode: The company quietly confirmed last week that it has axed several chips from its roadmap, including all of the smartphone processors in its current plans. […] Intel’s mobile failure is not only measured in dollars. The chip giant is in the process of cutting its workforce by more than 12,000, with those involved in mobile chips among those expected to be hit hard. […] And, of course, there is the opportunity cost of where Intel could have invested all those billions had it not been hellbent on trying to reclaim lost ground in mobile. Intel just can’t seem to catch a break. I’ll recapitulate: Intel’s future is seemingly eerie, especially considering Apple’s inevitable switch to its A-series chips on the Mac (my gut feeling says the MacBook gets the first Ax chip). While researching, I came upon an Apple Insider article from last year that talks about Intel’s lost business with Apple’s A-series processors: [Intel] wasn’t interested in building mobile chips for Apple’s iPhone, at least not at the price Apple wanted to pay and in the quantity Intel expected Apple to buy. […] Paul Otellini revealed last year that he didn’t believe his company would able to earn enough money building mobile chips for Apple’s new iPhone to cover its development costs, largely because he couldn’t imagine Apple selling iPhones in large quantities. Intel at the time actually owned XScale, an ARM chip producer, but it announced plans to sell off the group to Marvell in the summer of 2006 after any hope of a deal with Apple was lost. Assuming the iPhone wouldn’t sell in large quantities would’ve proved costly for Intel. Selling off their ARM licence may be the singular decision Intel’s leadership regrets the most. (The original Recode report does mention rumours that Intel’s secured chip-manufacturing for the next iPhone.) Further: John Gruber and Guy English talk about Intel’s layoffs in the latest Talk Show episode.
Saritha Rai, Bloomberg: Apple has been seeking permission to import and sell used phones to court price-conscious consumers with a similar proposal rejected in 2015 by the environment ministry. […] Apple’s rivals have mounted a public campaign against the effort, arguing that such a move would trigger a flood of used electronics while defeating the government’s Make-in-India program to encourage local manufacturing. The decision is a setback for Apple, which has just 2 percent of Indian phone shipments but needs to tap new markets as global iPhone sales plateau. […] India is a challenging market because of the iPhone’s premium pricing but bringing in refurbished phones would have allowed Apple to attract the cost-conscious. The company typically doesn’t lower prices, to maintain its marquee image. Not surprised. (UPDATE: Explanations in this Twitter thread.) (I wonder how Apple would’ve retained its ‘marquee image’ if they would’ve been allowed to sell refurbished iPhones.) Tim Cook in an interview with Jim Cramer on CNBC (transcript on The Loop; CNBC didn’t make it easy to find the video on their website): And now we’re really putting energy in India as well. Shows.
Reuters (via. The Loop): The decision “punishes more than 100 million users who depend upon us to communicate themselves, run their business and more, just to force us hand over information that we don’t have,” [Whatsapp] said, without elaborating. I can’t help but corelate this news with Whatsapp announcing its end-to-end encryption. 100 million people make up a tenth of Whatsapp’s user base of 1 billion people. I highly doubt this blockage was instated to prevent some mishap from occurring in the interim. A few days ago the Chinese government blocked Apple’s iBooks and iTunes Movie stores on grounds of Apple not complying with the Chinese government’s demands for iOS source code. The Indian government is no stranger to banning access to material on the Internet either. Censorship rules in late 20141 dictated ISPs block 32 websites that contained material considered anti-India; among them were GitHub, Imgur, Archive.org and Vimeo (these sites were exempted later). In 2015, the Indian government banned 857 sites containing pornographic content, in an attempt to ‘reduce crime against women’, and then caved in to the unaccounted backlash. I’ve articulated previously that Whatsapp is the staple messaging platform for the Indian smartphone user. Here, if you own a smartphone, you’re either on Whatsapp or people look at you funny. (Whatsapp has over 100 million users in India as of 2nd February.) These three countries safely constitute the majority of ’emerging markets’. Does one still wonder what would’ve happened if the Apple vs. FBI case set a precedent against encryption? I hope a public outcry helps Brazil dissolve this ruling prematurely — setting a precedent against the government repeating such dictums, but given the relatively short duration of the ban, an outcry is unlikely. Besides, Brazillian protests don’t seem to be striking a chord with their current government. 1. The permalink from that Techcrunch article ends with a’ /indian-government-censorsht/’. Curious how just the last word is misspelled. Could it be missing an ‘i’? ↩