The Fantastic Apple Car →

Apple has made a commitment to better in-car systems, not in and for themselves in isolation, but as a reinforcement of the iOS ecosystem. If the large number of engineers that they’ve “poached” from Tesla seems a bit much, consider again the enormous size of iPhone (and iPad) revenue for this past quarter: $60B – compared to GM’s $40B for the same period. To Apple, anything that helps the iOS ecosystem is well worth what looks like oversized investments to outsiders.

Gassée more credibly explaining what I think Apple is up to as well. Margins aside, the complex web of politics and the automotive industry would be far worse than the “orifices” of the wireless industry. If Apple suddenly started scaling up hiring in DC, then I’d consider that Apple may be building a brand new car.

Apple Is/Isn't Making a Car!

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Apple is already in the car business. After I read that they had hired Tesla folks, the simplest explanation seemed that they were probably looking to beef up their battery technology. Then more news came about they had hired luxury automotive execs and everyone is busy proclaiming they are making a car. The simplest explanation would be to expand upon integrations they’ve already started with carmakers. My guess is that this will look more like the hobbyist Apple TV venture, at least for the next few years.

Slippin' Jimmy

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Better Call Saul’s first few minutes should win an award just for making Cinnabon look appetizing. From there, the show quickly establishes a tone, pace, and energy reminding me of what made Breaking Bad so damn amazing. There are some folks saying it’s already better than Breaking Bad. That’s a silly comparison because Breaking Bad became an icon of television history because of where it went and, more importantly, how it got there. Better Call Saul, while giving us a slew of awesome characters and compelling setup, is a few seasons away from making that happen. But holy shit am I looking forward to it.

AOL To Lay Off About 150 People →

On Tim’s Armstrong’s 2015 strategy for AOL:

Number one, we’ll focus our capital allocation resource management and management time against scaled assets and platforms. Two, we will organize our asset portfolio around scaled value and scaled growth assets. Three, we’ll simplify everything that can be simplified.

“Except for how we communicate.” Armstrong’s continued inability to succinctly characterize AOL’s value and place in the world is why they’ll keep having more layoffs.

Following Fire Phone Flop, Big Changes at Amazon’s Lab126 →

I am not sure what Lab126 will accomplish with a re-org. The problem seems to be top management including Bezos himself. I have been impressed with exactly ZERO hardware electronic products from Amazon/Lab126. When the first Kindle was released, I thought it was a great version one of a product line and I was excited to see where it would go. It went to shit. Every model continues to look like prototype devices and are getting stuck with useless features like a web browser or an unusable touch screen with piss poor internal lighting. The Kindle needs to only do three things:

  1. Be the best reader (improve e-ink technology)
  2. Be cheap
  3. Be small and light

The Kindle just needs to be a $30-$40 (or subsidized to nearly free) reading device. More so, I am shocked by how little e-ink, the flagship technology of the device, has improved. And if the technology has hit a technical limit, then Amazon should find another way. In a few years, Apple will have an iPad Mini that may be even thinner and lighter than the current iPad Air 2 and will retail for $250 and unless Amazon changes trajectory, they will still be selling the more expensive Kindle models at $150-$200. This seems problematic for Amazon.

Lab126 appears to be in a tough spot. They have folks from Apple, Palm, etc who probably want to create elegant products but their fundamental purpose is to create channels, in the form of hardware gadgets, to sell stuff from a company that famously operates at a near 0% margin. And yet, Jeff Bezos seems intent on deploying gimmicky features that have no value.

Bezos drove the team hard on one particular feature: Dynamic Perspective, the 3-D effects engine that is perhaps most representative of what went wrong with the Fire Phone … And team members simply could not imagine truly useful applications for Dynamic Perspective.

Lab126’s strategic objectives are either non-existent or a muddled mess. I interviewed with Amazon’s Kindle group back in 2009 and saw that Bezos was very involved in the product line (disclosure: didn’t get the job). That doesn’t seemed to have changed today and perhaps it should. Maybe it’s time for Bezos to take a step back from hardware and leave it to other capable executives who can better balance cutting edge hardware with Amazon’s overall strategy.

Right now, Amazon is amazing at selling their blades but pretty awful at selling razors.

iPhone Buying Cycle

I bought a 64GB Apple iPhone 6 today and I feel like I got scammed. I typically always buy the cheapest 16GB models and that size has always suited me well. Even up to now, I have been fine with that capacity. I don’t take many pictures and videos though I use Amazon Prime’s photo backup for the few that I do have (iCloud and Photostream still suck in my opinion). I stream all music and have very few actual music files on my device. The only thing that takes up space are podcasts but that only builds up when I don’t listen to them for a while. That said, I was still pushing the storage to almost 90% of its capacity. I suspect iOS 8 is a major contributor to this.

I was surprised that Apple’s newest lineup has a 16GB as the cheapest model but then a 64GB as the next model. Why doesn’t the cheapest model include 32GB of storage? It seems to be such a blatant attempt by Apple to push up their ASPs without offering attached value. It’s a weird move for a company with such insane profitability.

Ultimately, I chose the 64GB model because I have little confidence that iOS 9 won’t crush a 16GB device even without pictures or music. However from here out, I plan to purchase iPhones that are one model old (ie buy the iPhone 7 when the 7S is released). I’ve been buying a new iPhone ever two years since the iPhone 3G. Now with me getting older and having new priorities, I just don’t think I need the absolute latest Apple offering. They are awesome but they can wait and I’d rather save the money (unless like in this case, the current device is nearly destroyed).

Marco Arment wrote about the degrading quality of Apple’s mobile software and argues that Apple’s marketing priorities are to blame.

I suspect the rapid decline of Apple’s software is a sign that marketing is too high a priority at Apple today: having major new releases every year is clearly impossible for the engineering teams to keep up with while maintaining quality.

I’ve also noticed that iOS has been packed with bugs lately as well. However, I think the culprit is far more sinister. Apple’s marketing message is built on premium quality. They should be the ones releasing quality when the software ready. This seems to be more of a CEO/CFO issue in that Apple seems to be far more actively managing its stock price that it has ever been before. If Apple misses a now established deadline for releasing a new version of iOS, the stock will take a hit. Apple is selling useless 16B phones and a seemingly pointless new iPad mini 3 (seriously, you should buy iPad mini 2). I don’t see marketing in charge. I see finance in charge.