Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for January 2018

Samsung’s Bang-up Quarter

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For all the recent chatter in this blog about Apples and iPhones, Samsung yesterday announced a bang up quarter of its own, including an operating profit of $14.15 billion for the December quarter.

The company’s semiconductor division drove the fourth-quarter earnings on the back of strong demand for its memory chips, while its mobile business saw a 3.2 on-year decline in operating profits, according to a report from CNBC.

Samsung said its fourth-quarter earnings were driven by strong demand for its memory chips used in data centers and smartphones.

CNBC also reported that research firm Gartner indicated preliminary results showed Samsung had leapfrogged Intel to become the world’s top semiconductor supplier last year, garnering some 14.6 percent of the market in 2017.

However, headwinds for memory are likely ahead of the company:

“Samsung’s lead is literally built on sand, in the form of memory silicon,” Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement earlier this month. He added that memory pricing will weaken in 2018 as China steps up its memory production capacity. “We then expect Samsung to lose a lot of the revenue gains it has made.”
– via CNBC

Samsung is expected to introduce its new flagship product, the Galaxy S9, at the coming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Written by turbotodd

January 31, 2018 at 11:33 am

Apple to Cut iPhone X Production

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As my IA friend explained in a Facebook message, “It’s the notch.”

Apple’s new anchor iPhone, the iPhone X, is having is production slashed for the three-month period ending March 31 due to slack demand.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Apple plans to make about 20 million iPhone X handsets in the first quarter, down by half from the original 40 million forecast.

Those familiar with the iPhone supply chain indicated Apple had cut orders for components used in the iPhone X by 60 percent.

Why is it not selling?

troubles incorporating the new technology led to delays in the manufacturing process, and forced Apple to abandon the use of fingerprints as an option to unlock the phones.
– via WSJ

Those early delays were exacerbated by a shortage of certain components used in the facial-recognition system. Sales of the iPhone X were pushed back until Nov. 3, shortening the critical retailing window ahead of the holiday shopping season.
– via WSJ

Then there is the $1,000 base price—many consumers don’t believe the features justify spending that much money, some analysts say.
– via WSJ

Written by turbotodd

January 30, 2018 at 11:58 am

Posted in 2018, apple, iPhone, iphone x

A National 5G?

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The other major IT news looming over this Monday morning centers around a Power Point presentation and memo – both produced by a senior National Security Council official – which were presented recently to senior officials at other agencies in the Trump Administration.

According to a report from Axios, the documents indicate America needs a centralized, nationwide 5G Network within three years, and lays out two options for how such a network would be built and paid for.

One, the US government would pay for and build the single network.

Two, an alternative plan would have wireless providers build their own 5G networks. But Axios goes on to point out that a source familiar with the document drafting says option 2 is really no option at all, because a single centralized network is what’s required to protect America against China and other bad actors .

The Wall Street Journal’s reporting of this story leads by writing that “the threat from China, in particular, justifies a ‘moonshot’ government  effort like the construction of the interstate highway system.”

What happened to a laissez faire, hands-off Republican approach (a la the FCC’s rescinding of the so-called “Net Neutrality” rules?

The answer: National security, natch.

But it may not be that easy for Uncle Sam to do the build:

The problem, according to people working on the White House’s 5G plan, is that the U.S. is almost uniquely ill-suited to build such a national network due to several factors, including an effective oligopoly among telecommunications and cable companies, tight regulations and the lack of indigenous manufacturers. Meanwhile, China is progressing swiftly with its development of 5G, and whoever ends up deploying the technology more quickly will gain a significant competitive advantage, these people say, because 5G is expected to provide the underlying architecture of the global information economy. A national network is a prerequisite for self-driving cars, automated farming and other technologies.
– via WSJ

And yet…

Some in the White House have concluded that the only path forward for the U.S. is to build a single network because multiple networks wouldn’t have enough bandwidth. The current debate is focused on whether the government should build the network or if a private consortium of companies should get together to build it, according to people familiar with the discussions. The plans being discussed at the White House are only focused on midband 5G technology—officials always planned to leave private- industry players to build their own low- and high-band 5G, which is where most of the margins are, these people said. Officials had been planning soon to begin formal outreach to industry players to gauge their interest.
– via WSJ

We may be in uncharted bandwidth here…

Written by turbotodd

January 29, 2018 at 10:42 am

Big Joggers, Deadly Data

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Happy Monday.

If you’re looking for a Grammy’s update, didn’t watch them this year, can’t tell you anything.

What I can tell you about was the big New York Times expose over the weekend about the rise and rise of automated Twitter bots, and the pay-to-play marketplace that has risen up around them, particularly by celebrities, YouTube stars, and other luminaries looking to raise their online profiles.

Kind of reminded me back in dot com bubble when Media Metrix numbers were used to support the insane valuations of emerging Internet companies.

More interesting to me is a report by The Guardian about how sensitive information about the location and staffing of U.S. military bases and outposts around the world have been revealed by a fitness tracking company.

Remember when the U.S. military cracked down on the kinds of things soldiers could post on social media?

Get ready for the great fitness data crackdown.

Here’s how The Guardian told it:

Sensitive information about the location and staffing of military bases and spy outposts around the world has been revealed by a fitness tracking company. The details were released by Strava in a data visualisation map that shows all the activity tracked by users of its app, which allows people to record their exercise and share it with others. Strava suggests military users ‘opt out’ of heatmap as row deepens Read more The map, released in November 2017, shows every single activity ever uploaded to Strava – more than 3 trillion individual GPS data points, according to the company. The app can be used on various devices including smartphones and fitness trackers like Fitbit to see popular running routes in major cities, or spot individuals in more remote areas who have unusual exercise patterns. However, over the weekend military analysts noticed that the map is also detailed enough that it potentially gives away extremely sensitive information about a subset of Strava users: military personnel on active service.
– via the Guardian

To bring it closer to home, “If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous…because it “looks a lot like a regular jogging route.”

Soldiers, vary your jogging routes and stop being so predictable…that’s an order! Better yet, leave that Fitbit in your locker.

Finally on this glorious Monday, if you’re interested in the emerging area of quantum computing (including the headwinds), check out this piece from Quanta Magazine, “The Era of Quantum Computing is here. Outlook: Cloudy.”

Written by turbotodd

January 29, 2018 at 10:17 am

Posted in 2018, quantum computing

Big Dell Deal?

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Dell is considering a range of strategic alternatives that could transform the maker of PCs and data-storage devices.

According to the story, the review, which is in a preliminary stage, Dell is expected to explore options including an IPO and a purchase of the rest of VMware, a publicly-traded cloud infrastructure company

Currently, VMware has a market value north of $50 billion.

If Dell pursued a public listing, writes the Journal, it would be one of the biggest IPOs in recent years, and could also provide the company with cash to invest in the business and pay down debt.

The backstory: Dell went private in a roughly $25 billion leveraged buyout in 2013 by Its founder, Michael Dell, and investment firm Silver Lake. In 2016, Dell bought EMC for $67 billion in the largest technology takeover ever.

Bloomberg is also now reporting this story, and indicated that the board is meeting later this month to discuss strategic options, including the IPO.

Raising cash could help the company further expand or pay off some of its debt, Bloomberg continues, noting that Dell currently has about $46 billion in debt.

Dell is also considering a public share sale for its Pivotal Software Inc. cloud-computing venture. Dell met with bankers last year to discuss that possibility and was told the company could fetch a valuation of $5 billion to $7 billion, said one of the people. Still, any Pivotal offering may wait until the company has converted more of its business into wider-margin software and subscriptions and away from less-profitable services businesses, the person said.
– via Bloomberg.com



Written by turbotodd

January 26, 2018 at 10:01 am

Posted in 2018, austin, dell, emc, wall street

Reading Apple

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Couple of news bites on the Apple front today.

Apple has released the first developer betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3, and they include new features such as additional Animoji, Business Chat for iMessage, among others.

AirPlay 2 is also available but apparently hidden, according to a report from 9to5Mac.

What, you ask me to remind you, exactly does AirPlay 2 do?


With iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3, however, AirPlay 2 officially supports multi-room playback. This means that you can stream to multiple Apple TVs directly from your iPhone for a full in-home audio experience.
– via 9to5Mac

And yet Apple announced yesterday that the HomePod would initially ship without multi-room support…with the HomePod being one of the most natural use cases for AirPlay 2.

9to5Mac also notes that AirPlay 2 marks the first major upgrade for the audio streaming feature since its original introduction in 2011.

Meanwhile, back at the virtual bookstore, Bloomberg is reporting that Apple is preparing to take on Amazon in the digital book market once again.

The Bloomberg story indicates that Apple is working on a redesign version of it iBooks e-book reading application for iPhones and iPads, and has hired an executive from Amazon for the project.


The new app, due to be released in coming months, will include a simpler interface that better highlights books currently being read and a redesigned digital book store that looks more like the new App Store launched last year, according to people familiar with its development. The revamped app in testing includes a new section called Reading Now and a dedicated tab for audio books, the people said.
– via Bloomberg.com

Like AirPlay 2, this iBook overhaul will also be a major upgrade to an app that has gathered a bit of dust over the past several years. That stagnation was led partly by the U.S. Department of Justice’s suit against Apple in 2012 for its alleged e-book pricing collusion scheme, one which resulted in a $450 fine for Apple in 2016.

Note: As of early 2017, Amazon had just over 83 percent of the U.S. e-book market.

That’s a whole lot of reading that needs to get done before Apple can even begin to close the gap!

Written by turbotodd

January 25, 2018 at 9:31 am

Posted in 2018, apple, e-books, iOS

Qualcomm’s $1.2B Fine for Apple Chip Exclusivity

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Top IT headline for this fine Humpday morning:

“EU fines Qualcomm €997M for abusing market dominance, says it paid Apple to buy LTE baseband chipsets from Qualcomm exclusively; Qualcomm to appeal.”

That from the EU press room.

Bloomberg writes that “Apple was cornered by Qualcomm with a 2011 deal that offered ‘significant’ sums and rebates if it only bought the company’s chips,” according to an EU mailed statement.

“Apple was seriously thinking of switching” from Qualcomm to Intel chips “which would have made a big difference to Intel” but couldn’t do so until its Qualcomm pact was about to expire in September 2016, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters at a Brussels press conference.
– via Bloomberg.com

The antitrust fine, the EU’s third highest, comes as Qualcomm tries to fend off a $105 billion hostile takeover by rival Broadcom Ltd. and wages war with Apple in numerous court cases around the world over patent licensing. Qualcomm’s management is under pressure to show shareholders it can manage the Apple dispute and battles with regulators that have already led to fines in China and South Korea.
– via Bloomberg.com


So far, the market is shrugging the fine off, with Qualcomm shares just slightly down overnight.

Written by turbotodd

January 24, 2018 at 9:27 am

Apple HomePod: Better Late Than Never?

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Apple’s eagerly-awaited answer to the Alexa Echo and Google Home voice assistants/speakers, the Apple HomePod, will be on its way home starting Friday, February 9th.

Orders are available to be taken online starting this Friday, January 26, in the US, UK, and Australia, according to a press release from Apple, and will arrive in France and Germany in the spring.

Here’s how Apple is positioning the device:

HomePod delivers stunning audio quality wherever it’s placed — in any room in the house, playing any style of music. Using just your voice, it’s easy and fun to use, and works together with an Apple Music subscription for a breakthrough music experience, providing access to one of the world’s largest cloud music libraries. Siri, now actively used on over half a billion devices, has developed a deep knowledge of music and understands your preferences and tastes. And with Siri, HomePod can send a message, set a timer, play a podcast, check the news, sports, traffic and weather, and even control a wide range of HomeKit smart home accessories.
– via Apple Newsroom

As for the price tag, well, it’s pretty Apple-ish: $349, well above the retail prices of Google Home at $129 and Amazon Echo at $179.

Call it the Apple premium.

The Verge has some key questions: Will HomePad work with subscriptions other than Apple Music like, say, Spotify? Will Siri be as capable on the HomePod as it is on other devices (and let’s face, Siri has falled behind in AI compared to the other students). And users will have to wait until a software update later this year if they want multi-room audio.

Turbo Take: Apple fans may very well have waited to pay more for less, but Apples has an uphill climb in terms of catching up to the incumbents. And I say that as a longtime Apple fanboy who already owns an Alexa Tap. Sometimes late to market is just too late. We’ll soon see whether or not that’s the case with the HomePod.

Written by turbotodd

January 23, 2018 at 9:32 am

Posted in 2018, amazon echo, apple, homepod

Social Media and Democracy

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Facebook Product Manager for Civic Engagement, Samidh Chakrabarti, posted earlier today about the impact of social media on democracy.

He begins:

Around the world, social media is making it easier for people to have a voice in government — to discuss issues, organize around causes, and hold leaders accountable. As recently as 2011, when social media played a critical role in the Arab Spring in places like Tunisia, it was heralded as a technology for liberation.
– via newsroom.fb.com

But then goes on to observe that “a lot has changed since then. The 2016 presidential election brought to the fore the risks of meddling, ‘fake news’ and political politicization.

Little bit, yeah.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Around the US 2016 election, Russian entities set up and promoted fake Pages on Facebook to influence public sentiment — essentially using social media as an information weapon. Although we didn’t know it at the time, we discovered that these Russian actors created 80,000 posts that reached around 126 million people in the US over a two-year period. This kind of activity goes against everything we stand for. It’s abhorrent to us that a nation-state used our platform to wage a cyberwar intended to divide society. This was a new kind of threat that we couldn’t easily predict, but we should have done better.
– via newsroom.fb.com

How could this happen and what could be done to mitigate it moving forward?

The Russian interference worked in part by promoting inauthentic Pages, so we’re working to make politics on Facebook more transparent. We’re making it possible to visit an advertiser’s Page and see the ads they’re currently running. We’ll soon also require organizations running election-related ads to confirm their identities so we can show viewers of their ads who exactly paid for them. Finally, we’ll archive electoral ads and make them searchable to enhance accountability.
– via newsroom.fb.com

As for the “fake” or false news:

we’ve made it easier to report false news and have taken steps in partnership with third-party fact checkers to rank these stories lower in News Feed. Once our fact checking partners label a story as false, we’re able to reduce future impressions of the story on Facebook by 80%. We’re also working to make it harder for bad actors to profit from false news, eliminating their incentive to create this content in the first place.
– via newsroom.fb.com

You can read the full post here.

Written by turbotodd

January 22, 2018 at 4:41 pm

Posted in 2018, facebook, fake news

More New Facebook Newsfeed News

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Friday afternoons. Where breaking news goes to die.

Which makes you wonder why Facebook would drop this news about its most recent adjustment to the Facebook News Feed.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Facebook executive Adam Mosseri indicated the company would start ranking news sources in its feed based on user evaluations of credibility.

The most “broadly trusted” publications—those trusted and recognized by a large cross-section of Facebook users—would get a boost in the news feed, while those that users rate low on trust would be penalized. The change only applies to U.S. users., though Facebook plans to roll it out later internationally.
– via WSJ

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post:

As part of our ongoing quality surveys, we will now ask people whether they’re familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source. The idea is that some news organizations are only trusted by their readers or watchers, and others are broadly trusted across society even by those who don’t follow them directly. (We eliminate from the sample those who aren’t familiar with a source, so the output is a ratio of those who trust the source to those who are familiar with it.)
– via www.facebook.com

He went on to explain that “this update will not change the amount of news you see on Facebook. It will only shift the balance of news you see towards sources that are determined to be trusted by the community.”

So, we (the community) decide who to trust, and Facebook will then act on the data.

This should be interesting.

Written by turbotodd

January 19, 2018 at 3:24 pm

Posted in 2018, facebook

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