January 29, 2015

This looks really cool, I may buy one of these. It connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth and then you hold the hardware on the tuning peg of your guitar.

A band inside a guitar pedal

This is truly amazing. You can find out more from the DigiTech Trio Web page.

Zak’s own line of guitars, amps, and anything else audio. Count me in!

Atlas Obscura:

Around the world, there are trees that have been growing for a much longer period of time than famed arbors like Methuselah or General Sherman. Some of these beautiful ancients may not look like much — some appear to be mere saplings, compared to the gigantic redwoods.

Trees have always fascinated me. As a kid, I would climb the oaks in our neighbourhood and sit up there for hours. I still love walking among them and feeling their presence.

Om Malik wrote a great piece on the iPhone 6 Plus and also reflected on the upcoming Apple Watch and thoughts on Apple Pay:

It looks like Apple is going to ride the iPhone wave for a while, perhaps right through the launch of the Apple Watch, which I suspect is going to provide the big lift.

Agreed.

That said, I am not bullish on the watch, mostly because when I saw it, the software looked incomplete by a mile. It lacked that usual Apple software pop!

There is no doubt that when Apple introduced the watch, the software wasn’t ready. It’s ready now.

I wish Apple had spent more time making Apple Pay realize its true potential, because it could change how we purchase and thus define a new era for the company.

I believe they are, in the background. Typically, Apple will release something slowly and then it takes off. This is exactly the strategy I see Apple taking with Apple Pay—under promise, over deliver.

If you haven’t read the latest 10 stories or so on Daring Fireball, you have to do it now. It’s some of the greatest “claim chowder” ever.

When I first read this, I thought they were crazy, but this is pretty cool.

Apple Inc has taken the number one luxury gifting spot in China from designer goods maker Hermes International SCA, according to a Hurun luxury report on Thursday, reflecting the iPhone maker’s recent hot streak in the country.

Apple’s strategy for China is on fire.

iTunes U is a great Apple resource. This particular one is Stanford University’s iOS programming course.

Samsung Electronics reported overall Q4 operating profits of 5.29 trillion won ($4.9 billion)—a 36 percent year-over-year drop—but its Mobile division suffered a 64.2 percent drop in profits, falling from $5 billion in the year ago quarter to $1.8 billion in the December quarter.

Clearly there’s nothing wrong with the market since Apple just sold 74.5 million iPhones, so maybe people are finally seeing through Samsung’s shit.

How a Superbowl football is made

This is a surprisingly heartwarming look at the people who make their living crafting footballs that will be used in the Superbowl.

Kirk McElhearn:

In Apple’s press release, CEO Tim Cook is quoted as saying:

“We’d like to thank our customers for an incredible quarter, which saw demand for Apple products soar to an all-time high,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Our revenue grew 30 percent over last year to $74.6 billion, and the execution by our teams to achieve these results was simply phenomenal.”

At the same time, Apple is sitting on $178 billion, much of it sequestered in offshore tax-shielded trusts.

With all this money, Apple could do something better than develop a new iPhone. I’m reminded of the famous question that Steve Jobs asked Pepsi CEO John Sculley in the 1980s, in order to convince Sculley to join the company:

“Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

This is solid food for thought. There’s no doubt that Apple continues to change the world. The question is, is Apple selling sugared water? Or is Apple bringing change for the better?

On the surface, Apple is just like any other business, building products and a top brand with the hope of making money. And they’ve certainly succeeded, on a massive scale.

Kirk asks, “Remember when Apple was going to change the world?”

Apple continues to change the world, again and again. As a young company, Apple worked out how to make personal computers easy to use. They took the PC market on another crazy ride when Steve Jobs returned, bringing out the colorful iBook and iMac. They then took on music, bringing the iPod to the market. They disrupted the smart phone market with the iPhone, added another big change with the iPad. Apple recently introduced Apple Pay which has the potential to disrupt the payment business. In April, we’ll see the start of another wave with Apple Watch.

Apple has changed the world, there’s no question about that. But is it all sugar water?

I get Kirk’s question. There’s no doubt that Apple is in business mode, in product design mode. They are not pouring money into solving problems in the same manner as Bill Gates, who takes on malaria, clean water, real human problems. But Apple is behaving in a way appropriate for a publicly held business. They are making decisions to benefit their shareholders.

As businesses go, they chart a pretty noble course. From Apple’s environmental responsibility page:

We continue to lead the industry in reducing or eliminating environmentally harmful substances, and we’re continually striving to make our products the cleanest and safest they can be.

How many companies care enough about the environmental impact of their products to put in the kind of effort Apple has put in to make their products safer?

How about Tim Cook continuing to speak out about gay rights and racism? How many CEOs stand up to shareholders when pressed for short term gain versus doing what’s best?

I think Kirk’s post is worth a read. And it certainly is fair for shareholders to ask what Apple is doing with their money. But I don’t think Apple is selling sugar water. To me, that’s not a fair comparison.

Apple’s star is rising as other luxury gift brands are falling.

Spending on gift-giving overall dropped 5 percent in 2014, after a 25 percent drop the year before, according to the Hurun Chinese Luxury Consumer Survey. Beijing has been cracking down on corruption and luxury spending among public officials, weighing down sales of premium liquor to handbags.

And:

“Travel retail continues to change the dynamics of luxury in China, with 7 out of 10 luxury goods bought by Chinese now being bought overseas,” said Hurun Report Chairman Rupert Hoogewerf.

Perfect storm for Apple. Traditional luxury gifts are being scrutinized and the market is looking overseas for new luxury options.

January 28, 2015

Jim, Shawn and our Special Guest, Dave Mark, talk Apple earnings, Swift programming, NAMM and “digital music”.

In the ad, the lost puppy returns home only to find that his owners have sold him using a website made with GoDaddy.

So now puppy mills are okay with GoDaddy. What’s wrong with this company?

Associated Press:

A law enforcement campaign to compel Google Inc. to disable a feature in its popular Waze traffic app that lets drivers warn others about nearby police activity shifted Wednesday when a sheriffs’ organization openly complained that the app not only puts officers’ lives at risk, it also interferes with the ability to write speeding tickets.

So it’s OK for government officials and corporations to track us but not OK for us to track them?

Vox:

There are huge benefits to salting the roads. One 1992 study found that spreading salt can reduce accidents by 87 percent during and after a snowstorm.But road salt also comes with major downsides: Salt is corrosive, chewing through cars, trucks, concrete, and steel bridges. Worse still, when all that salt dissolves and washes away, it steadily accumulates in rivers and streams. Other times, moose and elk get attracted to the salt and wander onto roads, raising the risk of crashes.

We have similar issues here in Canada with road salt and its affect on cars and the environment. That last sentence came to light for me while riding my motorcycle in the Banff National Park. I came around a corner and there was a herd of massive elk in the middle of the road, licking the salt off the pavement. It created a very high Pucker Factor, to say the least.

The Verge:

Plenty of amateur films have been shot using iPhones, but by all reports, this is the first movie at the Sundance Film Festival to be shot almost entirely on an Apple device. It was a decision that indie writer and director Sean Baker made to accommodate the film’s small budget. But you’d never guess the camera, to look at it: Tangerine was shot in a widescreen, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, and its camera zooms through the streets of LA with a fluidity you’d never expect from a handheld device. And yet despite his camera of choice, Baker says the iPhone made for a good partner. “It was surprisingly easy,” Baker says. “We never lost any footage.”

Another interesting story about the functionality and versatility of the iPhone.

USA Today:

On Jan. 28, 1985, at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood, following the American Music Awards, more than 40 artists gathered to record a song Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson had written to raise awareness of widespread, life-threatening poverty in Africa. Most of that show’s winners — including Cyndi Lauper, Hall & Oates, Bruce Springsteen, Huey Lewis, Willie Nelson, Tina Turner, the Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers and the Jacksons — participated.

This was a pretty big deal at the time. Part of the magic is that they managed to keep the whole production a complete secret until the song was released.

Many of the singers arrived in limousines, having just come from the awards show, but not everybody showed up in style. “I think Bruce Springsteen parked his truck in the parking lot of the Rite-Aid or a grocery store that used to be across the street,” Richie says. “He parked over there and walked in. He didn’t know you could come through the gate.”

Love the song, love the story behind the song. Speaking of which, here’s a documentary (slightly cheesy, but that was the tone of the times) that lays everything out. Some excellent nostalgia.

Tesla P85D “Insane Mode” launch reactions

OK, now I want to test drive a Tesla.

Kit Eaton (apologies to Kit, got his name wrong in the original post), writing for Medium, addresses the recent rumors about Apple Watch battery life, calling the whole discussion silly.

19 hours sounds very reasonable. Picture yourself looking at and interacting with your watch for 2–3 seconds at a time as you read notifications, with the occasional 10–20 seconds used to respond to something like a tweet or text message. Add in less frequent longer interactions lasting a few minutes (like making a phone call or playing a game—even though we don’t know how much game play Apple will allow in watch apps) and then that 3-hour “heavy” use window looks quite generous. You wouldn’t want to stare at such a small screen for much longer each day anyway. It’s also a first generation device, and Apple’s proven advanced product development techniques will certainly deliver more power in version 2

The Apple Watch is slated to ship in April. That first generation will go to early adopters who, by their very pioneering nature, will revel in the newness, accept any flaws as the cost of being first.

The rest of Marcel’s essay focuses on the history of the watch, grappling with the problems in making timekeeping portable:

Ever since clockmakers worked out how to make clocks portable there was an almost continuous technological struggle between how much “battery life” and capability the devices had. This affected the first pocket watches and wristwatches, and pretty much every watch ever since.

A solid read.

Tim Cook on iPhone sales

Here’s a link to Apple’s official sales numbers. The first column shows the quarter that we’re interested in, labeled Q1’15. Note that total iPhone sales went from 51 million units from Q1’14 (a year ago) to 74 million units this last quarter. That’s a 45.9% increase.

Here’s Tim Cook, responding to an analyst question:

You can see from the March guidance that we’ve given that we’re incredibly bullish about iPhone going forward. We believe it’s the best smartphone in the world, our customers are telling us that, the market is telling us that. We’re doing well in virtually every corner of the world, and so we’re very bullish that it does have legs. I would point out that only a small fraction of the installed base has upgraded, so there’s a lot more people within the installed base, but I would also point out that we had the highest number of customers new to iPhone last quarter than in any prior launch. And also that the current iPhone lineup experienced the highest Android switcher rate in any of the last three launches in any of the three previous years. We didn’t look back to the other years, I don’t know about those.

First, “only a small fraction of the installed base has upgraded”. Not sure what that small fraction is, but this is followed by, “we had the highest number of customers new to iPhone last quarter than in any prior launch” and “the current iPhone lineup experienced the highest Android switcher rate in any of the last three launches in any of the three previous years”.

These are solid indicators all the way around. There is still lots of room for growth within the installed base, and the potential market for iPhones continues to grow outside the installed base. Some of that growth is coming at the expense of Android cannibalism in existing markets. But we also know that Apple is making headway in establishing new markets, especially in China.

These are remarkable results. Apple might just survive.

There’s no real substitute for hearing Apple’s financial results directly from Tim Cook (here’s a link to the webcast, if you’d like to listen in).

But since many (most?) people read way faster than they can process audio, here’s a hand crafted transcript of the call, brought to you courtesy of Jason Snell’s fast typing fingers.

January 27, 2015

Mic:

The league, in partnership with the anti-domestic violence organization NO MORE, recently released an ad that will air live Sunday during the Super Bowl. Based on a real 911 call, the ad pans over the wreckage of a domestic dispute while the audio of a chilling emergency call plays in the background.

Powerful and chilling. Thanks to my friend JennS for the link.

Medium:

The whole Tsukiji experience is comparable to strolling through the fish section of Whole Foods early one morning when the LSD kicks in and the store suddenly turns into JFK Airport and a monster bike rally is starting and a marathon walk is ending and all the cars have Jersey plates and valet service is provided by Hell’s Angels. You are the outsider at the fish anarchist’s ball.

One of my Bucket List items was/is to visit this market. Looks like I’ll have to hurry.

Techcrunch:

Until today, Russia’s Gazprom (the largest natural gas extractor in the world) held the record at $16.2 billion in a quarter.

Apple now holds the record: $18.04 billion in profit, fiscal Q1 of 2015.

For reference, that means Apple makes around $8.3 million dollars per hour in profit (24 hours a day).

This was a company written off as all but dead less than 20 years ago.

Ars Technica:

Apple CEO Tim Cook dropped a rare bit of product news on the company’s Q1 2015 earnings call: the Apple Watch begins shipping in April.The Apple Watch will start at $349 for the aluminum Apple Watch Sport model, though starting prices for the more expensive stainless steel and gold models haven’t yet been revealed.

About the time frame we expected. As we get closer to a sales date, I find it interesting how many people I hear are at least interested in seeing the Apple Watch with an eye towards buying it.

Apple reports record quarterly profit of $18 billion, sells 74.5 million iPhones

Apple on Tuesday recorded a record first quarter profit of $18 billion on $74.6 billion in revenue. These results compare to revenue of $57.6 billion and net profit of $13.1 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Apple said iPhone unit sales of 74.5 million also set a new record. Apple also sold 5.5 million Macs and 21.4 million iPads in the quarter.

International sales accounted for 65 percent of the quarter’s revenue, according to Apple.

“We’d like to thank our customers for an incredible quarter, which saw demand for Apple products soar to an all-time high,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Our revenue grew 30 percent over last year to $74.6 billion, and the execution by our teams to achieve these results was simply phenomenal.”

Looking forward to the second fiscal quarter, Apple said it expects revenue between $52 billion and $55 billion.

iOS 8.1.3 available

A new iOS update is available for download. Apple lists five bugs that have been fixed, including reducing the amount of storage needed to do an update. iOS 8.1.3 is a 247MB download that you can get by going to Settings > General > Software Update on your iOS device.

9to5mac:

In video messages to employees in recent days and weeks, Ahrendts has been recruiting employees from United States-based Apple Retail stores to relocate to China to help build up Apple’s retail efforts in the region. In a note to employees late last week, sources say that Ahrendts reported that approximately 200 Apple retail workers from the U.S. have already offered to make the move. Ahrendts added that the offer to move to China “has no expiration date because as the business grows, our needs will only become greater, so as your personal and professional life changes, just always keep China at the top of your mind, because we’re going to need you…”

An interesting problem. Apple is rapidly expanding their retail presence in China, outstripping its ability to provide properly trained staff for the stores. Training employees to work in China is no small undertaking and no small expense. These employees need training beyond what they receive in their current position, including language and cultural training. But the cost of sending someone on a long term overseas assignment can be staggering.

There are moving expenses, travel back and forth to visit family and friends and for further training. And, I imagine, there must be a pretty penny set aside for bonuses to make an assignment like this worthwhile for the employee.

Finally, there’s the matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul. For every quality employee Apple sends to China, that’s one less quality employee for the current set of Apple Stores. The trick for Angela Ahrendts is to fill the needs of this new rapid expansion in China without diluting the existing talent pool.