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.

#illridewithyou: Support for Muslim Australians Takes off Following Sydney Siege →

We often look to people we consider extraordinary to do great things but great things happen when everyday people stand up for what’s right.

Uber Surges During Sydney Hostage Siege, Backtracks After Outcry →

After Mashable published a story on the price hikes, the company reversed course and announced that all riders in the area would be free, and that anybody who had been charged the higher amount would be refunded.

Given Uber’s incredible amount of financing, it seems they could have in place a system that notifies an Uber city manager when abnormal surging is occurring. The city manager would then intervene and modify pricing if there are extraordinary circumstances such as what happened in Sydney. Uber shouldn’t have to wait until there is public outcry. I sometimes wonder what Uber is doing with all their cash but perhaps much of it’s being used to buy… uh, I mean, lobby the government:

In the past two years, the company has hired private lobbyists in at least 50 U.S. cities and states, employing multiple firms in some places, according to a Washington Post review of local lobbyist registration records. The records show that the company has hired at least 161 individuals to lobby on its behalf, on top of its own rapidly expanding policy office. In Sacramento, the company spent $475,000 from July to November to lobby California lawmakers.

Jon Stewart: The Most Trusted Name In Fake News →

The last post reminded me of an old interview with Jon Stewart on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The whole thing is hilarious and wonderful and you should listen to it. When Stewart talks about the process for creating The Daily Show, he says:

We’ve instituted – to be able to sort of wean through all this material and synthesize it, and try and come up with things to do – we have a very, kind of strict day that we have to adhere to. And by doing that, that allows us to process everything, and gives us the freedom to sort of improvise. I’m a real believer in that creativity comes from limits, not freedom. Freedom, I think you don’t know what to do with yourself. But when you have a structure, then you can improvise off it and feel confident enough to kind of come back to that.

To some, it might seem counterintuitive, but I’ve definitely found that when I don’t place any restrictions or time bounds, I never come up with anything good.

Aaron Draplin Takes On a Logo Design Challenge

I love learning about people’s creative processes. In this video, Aaron spends almost a third of the video talking just about the brainstorming process before actually hitting the computer. That’s something I always have to remember as part of the process as well. I always start out with some idea of how I want a performance (or writing piece) to look and I often quickly get frustrated that I’m not there yet. But inevitably, I spend so much time writing an insane amount of gibberish before I even get to the finalized content. But like Aaron says, it can be the most fun part of the journey.