Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Apple CEO discusses security with top Chinese official amid hacking claims: Xinhua | Reuters

Interesting times; also see Apple Says iCloud Servers Have Not Been Compromised Following Reports Of Hacks In China (Business Insider)
"The group, Greatfire.org, has alleged Chinese government involvement in the hack, a claim the government has strongly refuted. Apple has not issued any public statements on the matter.

At a meeting on Wednesday in Zhongnanhai, the Beijing complex housing China's central government, Cook and Vice Premier Ma Kai exchanged views on "protection of users' information" as well as "strengthening cooperation and in information and communication fields," according to Xinhua.

Greatfire told Reuters that Apple appeared to have rerouted user data on Tuesday to circumvent the hack."
Apple CEO discusses security with top Chinese official amid hacking claims: Xinhua | Reuters

Staples Is Latest Retailer Hit by Hackers - NYTimes.com

Another vote for Apple Pay (and similar payment systems)

"In the latest hacking of American retailers and restaurants, Staples said on Tuesday that its computer systems were compromised in an intrusion involving customers’ credit- and debit-card information.

Staples, the office supplier based in Framingham, Mass., said it was working with law enforcement agencies to determine the extent of the problem. The company did not say when the attack occurred or in which stores, or how many payment cards might have been affected."
Staples Is Latest Retailer Hit by Hackers - NYTimes.com

A 1976 Apple 1 Is Expected to Sell for Up to $500,000 at Auction - Businessweek

Not a bad ROI for a $666.66 investment

"The duo presented what would become the Apple 1 at the Homebrew Computer Club and won their first order from Paul Terrell, owner of the Byte Shop, of 50 fully assembled units for $500 apiece. One of those motherboards is going to auction on Wednesday as part of Bonhams’s “History of Science” auction, and it is expected to fetch from $300,000 to $400,000."
A 1976 Apple 1 Is Expected to Sell for Up to $500,000 at Auction - Businessweek

Retina iMac Review: The Screen That Makes Desktops Relevant Again - WSJ - WSJ

I'm hoping the next MacBook Pro will be introduced in Q1, along with a new (and < $2,500) 5K Thunderbolt Display

"You may ask, why not just plug a laptop into a giant 5K monitor? So far, at least, there’s no way to do that. Dell announced its UltraSharp 27 Ultra HD 5K in September, but standard laptops today can’t drive it. Besides, when it ships in December, it will cost $2,500. Apple’s 5K display is available today, and for the same price includes the best personal computer Apple has ever made. Apple’s 15- and 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops also have Retina screens with a similar density of pixels, but the iMac’s screen is much, much larger."
Retina iMac Review: The Screen That Makes Desktops Relevant Again - WSJ - WSJ

IPad Air 2 and Mini 3 Review: One Thumb Up, and Another Down - NYTimes.com

Lead paragraphs from a pragmatic iPad reality check; also see iPad Air 2 Review: The Best Tablet Needs to Work Harder (WSJ) and Apple iPad Air 2 Review: It’s Better, but Is It Better Enough? (Re/code)

"Let’s get this out of the way first: Apple’s new iPads are the best tablets on the market today. The iPad Air 2, the company’s new top-of-the-line device, is substantially faster than its predecessor, which was already more powerful than just about every rival. It sports a terrific minimalist design, almost a millimeter and a half thinner than last year’s pretty skinny iPad Air. And both the new Air and the iPad Mini 3, Apple’s latest small tablet, include TouchID and Apple Pay, Apple’s fingerprint scanner and payment system, which are handy innovations that make signing into apps and shopping for goods online much easier than in the past.

So these are fantastic tablets. The question is: Do you need a fantastic tablet?"
IPad Air 2 and Mini 3 Review: One Thumb Up, and Another Down - NYTimes.com

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Microsoft launches Azure cloud in a box | ZDNet

tbd if Amazon or Google will offer a similar on-prem/private cloud option; HP is already partially there for hybrid AWS scenarios, with its Eucalyptus acquisition. For more details, see Unveiling The Microsoft Cloud Platform System, powered by Dell (Windows Server Blog). In other Azure news, see Cloudera Selects Microsoft Azure as a Preferred Cloud Platform (Cloudera blog).

"With Dell as its hardware partner, Microsoft will offer customers pre-assembled racks of servers running Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack. Azure Pack, originally known as "Windows Azure Services for Windows Server," provides users with the on-premises equivalents of a number of Azure technologies, including a self-service portal for managing services like Web sites, virtual machines and Service Bus; a portal for administrators to manage "resource clouds"; scalable Web hosting and more.

The Microsoft Cloud Platform System will be available starting next month, said Microsoft executives."
Microsoft launches Azure cloud in a box | ZDNet

Steve Ballmer at Stanford: A Conversation With a New MBA Professor - Businessweek

A busy "retirement"

"Professor Ballmer shows up on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to teach 80 or so MBA hopefuls. His class, Leading Organizations, runs two hours to covers topics ranging from accountability to time allocation. I popped in recently for a class dubbed “storytelling,” which mostly hit on the thinking that went into marketing products at Microsoft—and whether or not the various approaches worked. Ballmer teaches the class with Susan Athey, a well-regarded economics professor, and they were joined on this day by Mark Penn, the pollster and political strategist who has done work for the Clintons, Tony Blair, and Microsoft."
Steve Ballmer at Stanford: A Conversation With a New MBA Professor - Businessweek

The Truth Hidden by IBM’s Buybacks - NYTimes.com

A stark contrast to Apple's latest financial news, yesterday's dismal IBM news marks the abrupt end of the company's Palmisano-era strategy

"But all along, IBM has been buying up its own shares as if they were a hot item. Since 2000, IBM spent some $108 billion on its own shares, according to its most recent annual report. It also paid out $30 billion in dividends. To help finance this share-buying spree, IBM loaded up on debt.

While the company spent $138 billion on its shares and dividend payments, it spent just $59 billion on its own business through capital expenditures and $32 billion on acquisitions. (To be fair, Ms. Rometty has been following a goal set by her predecessor, Samuel J. Palmisano, to return $20 a share to stockholders by 2015. Ms. Rometty abandoned it only on Monday.)"
The Truth Hidden by IBM’s Buybacks - NYTimes.com

Voyage, a High-End Amazon Kindle That Beats Hardcovers - NYTimes.com

Also see Kindle Voyage Sets a High Bar for a High Price (Re/code); in less complimentary Amazon news, see Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K. (NYT)

"Compared with  previous Kindles, text on the Kindle Voyage appears both sharper and in starker relief against the background. Graphics, like charts and graphs, look just as clear as they do in any black-and-white book.

The effect is beguiling. If you look at the new Kindle for any stretch of time, you don’t just forget that you’re reading an e-book; you forget that you’re using any kind of electronic device at all.

Amazon says the Voyage offers a better approximation of print than has ever been available on an e-reader, but for me, it’s far better than that. It offers the visual clarity of printed text with the flexibility of an electronic device."
Voyage, a High-End Amazon Kindle That Beats Hardcovers - NYTimes.com

Apple Earnings: $42.1 Billion, Driven By Nearly 40 Million iPhones Sold [Marketing Land]

Check the link below for a round-up of other stats and a Q&A recap

"CEO Tim Cook opening remarks celebrate hardware sales and revenue numbers:

“Demand for the iPhone has been staggering”
“Strongest revenue growth rate in seven quarters . . . a new record for Apple’s September quarter”
Especially proud of Mac results, especially vs. rest of industry . . . achieved quarterly PC market share record
App store revenue grew 36 percent over last year
437 Apple retail stores around the world
Developing markets: $50 billion in revenue in fiscal 2014
Company made 20 acquisitions in fiscal 2014
 2014 the company’s best year on the books"
Apple Earnings: $42.1 Billion, Driven By Nearly 40 Million iPhones Sold

Monday, October 20, 2014

Apple Pay Is Here And It's Going To Be Great: Why The Skeptics Have It Wrong [Forbes]

Excerpt from another Apple Pay reality check

"Best Buy and WalMart are saying they won’t play with Apple Pay. Why?

Two reasons, neither is good. First, they are burying their heads in the sand about NFC. Every merchant in the U.S. needs to support chip-based credit cards by October 2015 or face the liability risk of fraudulent transactions on their own (today, that risk is borne by issuing banks). It’s true that retailers can accept so called EMV cards without supporting NFC, but doing so entering the holiday season is going to be a decision those retailers will live to regret. Today, the speed of credit-card checkout is something we mostly take for granted and with chip cards, that’s about to change. Support for NFC isn’t about making Apple happy, it’s going to be about making customers happy.

The second reason some retailers are being obstinate is a quixotic endeavor to do mobile payments called MCX, for Merchant Customer Exchange. Gap, CVS, Exxon Mobil and a whole host of companies have agreed to collaborate on a payments solution whose advantage to consumers centers mostly on integrated loyalty-program features."
Apple Pay Is Here And It's Going To Be Great: Why The Skeptics Have It Wrong

SAP Cuts Profit Outlook as More Customers Switch to Cloud | Re/code

A market mainstreaming milestone for cloud platforms

"German business software maker SAP on Monday cut its outlook for full-year operating profit amid an accelerating shift by customers to buy its software over the Internet rather than as packaged software, delaying recognition of those sales.

SAP said it now 2014 expects operating profit, excluding some special items, of 5.6 billion to 5.8 billion euros ($7.14 billion to 7.40 billion), down from 5.8-6.0 billion euros previously."
SAP Cuts Profit Outlook as More Customers Switch to Cloud | Re/code

Apple Pay Is Too Anonymous for Panera, Starbucks, and Other Retailers - Businessweek

Pay different -- and if merchants want consumer data, they can directly negotiate with consumers for it

"The world’s largest retailer,Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), is rejecting Apple Pay altogether. It has said it has no plans to accept Apple’s payments, and is working on its own system developed by Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX, in conjunction with a handful of other big merchants. MCX and Wal-Mart declined to discuss their reasons for not working with Apple Pay. Analysts say the primary reason for the parallel effort is to make sure that merchants retain control of the relationship with their customers."
Apple Pay Is Too Anonymous for Panera, Starbucks, and Other Retailers - Businessweek

It’s official: IBM to sell chip-making biz to GlobalFoundries — Tech News and Analysis

An unusual use of the term "sell"

"It’s true: IBM will pay GlobalFoundries $1.5 billion over three years to take over its commercial semiconductor manufacturing business and IBM will take a $4.7 billion cash charge for its third quarter as a result.

Under terms of the deal,  first reported by Bloomberg News, GlobalFoundries will be IBM’s exclusive provider of server processors in the 22-nm and 10-nm semiconductors for 10 years. And the $1.5 billion cash consideration will be adjusted by an estimated $200 million  depending on the amount of working capital involved, per an IBM statement."
It’s official: IBM to sell chip-making biz to GlobalFoundries — Tech News and Analysis

Stephen Colbert Has a Mock Feud With Google Over Search Results - NYTimes.com

Truthiness and consequences

"As Danny Sullivan explained on his site Marketing Land, “The challenge Google faces is that it really doesn’t ‘know’ anything — it only gets answers from others, and those answers, not vetted by human beings for accuracy, can be wrong.”

Even after a little sleuthing, Mr. Sullivan could not determine where Google got its 5-foot-10 answer for Mr. Colbert’s height. He noted that Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, also listed Mr. Colbert as 5-10 but credited the entertainment site IMDb. Over the weekend, that changed on Bing and IMDb, and Mr. Colbert is listed at 5-11.

And Siri, the iPhone service that answers questions, still lists Mr. Colbert at 5-10."
Stephen Colbert Has a Mock Feud With Google Over Search Results - NYTimes.com

Sunday, October 19, 2014

For South Korea, Host of League of Legends Championship, E-Sports Is National Pastime - NYTimes.com

For another gaming market dynamics snapshot, see More women play video games than boys, and other surprising facts lost in the mess of Gamergate (The Washington Post)

"Competitive video gaming is now taking off in places like the United States, attracting thousands of people to major events. But in South Korea, more than anywhere else, it has already oozed into mainstream culture. Couples going to game clubs is about as common as couples going to the movies.

Time and again, South Korea has provided glimpses of technology-related transformations before they expand globally, including widespread broadband availability and smartphone adoption. The country has also led in professional video game competitions, often called e-sports, creating organized leagues, training well-financed professional teams and filling giant stadiums with frenzied fans to cheer on their favorite players."
For South Korea, Host of League of Legends Championship, E-Sports Is National Pastime - NYTimes.com

SharePoint is Already Legacy (CMS Wire)

Excerpt from a timely SharePoint market dynamics reality check

"And yet, here we are four years later. Cisco has discontinued the Quad product, there has been no renaissance of Lotus and even Jive has had a less than revolutionary impact on the enterprise. As many IT organizations evaluated the needs of their users, they found SharePoint could get them to "good enough."
To paraphrase poet T.S. Elliot, this is how Microsoft wins: not with a bang, but a whimper."
SharePoint is Already Legacy

7 things Google's Nexus Player must do to succeed | Digital Trends

#8: get certified by the FCC (see, e.g., Google halts Nexus Player pre-orders as it awaits FCC certification [The Verge])

"To say that Google is late to the party with its recently announced Nexus Player would be a grand understatement.

To be fair, The company made an early appearance at the set-top box soirĂ©e masquerading as Google TV, but was promptly booted out for being unruly, uncooperative and just generally sucking really hard. Now, having undergone a dramatic wardrobe change and an attitude adjustment, Google is back, going by the name Android TV, and flashing the Nexus Player around like some kind of VIP pass. But it’s going to have to do some serious schmoozing if it wants to be welcomed back into what became a real rager of a product category in its absence."
7 things Google's Nexus Player must do to succeed | Digital Trends

Facebook is now bigger than IBM - Quartz

Check the full post for a chart and additional details

"It’s a major changing of the technology guard for corporate America.
Facebook’s market capitalization darted ahead of IBM in recent weeks, as Mark Zuckerberg’s social media behemoth saw its value rise to roughly $208 billion as of Thursday’s close of trading.
Thanks to a remarkable share surge over the past year, Facebook’s market value has leapfrogged any number of the gold-plated names of American industry, including Verizon, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Bank of America and Citigroup."
Facebook is now bigger than IBM - Quartz

When To Pay Attention To The Stock Market (And When To Ignore It) | FiveThirtyEight

Excerpt from a timely stock market reality check; also see A Wild Week for Stock Markets (The New Yorker)

"We don’t write much about financial markets here at FiveThirtyEight. That’s intentional. Markets are important, but there’s already lots of good coverage out there. There’s also lots of really bad coverage — the deluge of minute-by-minute market data makes it incredibly tempting to see signals in what is really just noise. We don’t follow every up and down of the market because, unless you’re a trader, it just doesn’t matter.

But there are times when even non-traders should pay attention to the markets, either because they’re so bad they’re affecting the rest of the economy (think Lehman Brothers in 2008), or because they’re sending a signal about bad news around the corner. How do you know when to do that? You can’t, at least not perfectly. But by following a few simple guidelines, you can avoid getting caught up in the hype and stay focused on what really matters."
When To Pay Attention To The Stock Market (And When To Ignore It) | FiveThirtyEight

Trying to Live in the Moment (and Not on the Phone) - NYTimes.com

Sign of the times; tangentially, see To Siri, With Love: How One Boy With Autism Became B.F.F.'s With Apple’s Siri (NYT)

"I also downloaded an application called Checky, created by Alex Tew and a team in San Francisco. Checky, which keeps tabs on the number of times your phone is opened each day, has had almost a quarter of a million downloads in a few weeks, Mr. Tew said. The application is free, like his company’s other flagship product, Calm.com, a site that promotes relaxation. The company also offers meditation seminars and classes aimed at people looking to de-stress and de-connect. “There’s an irony in using a smartphone app to check how often you check your smartphone,” Mr. Tew said. “But it brings your attention to your usage, and that alone can help you make changes.”"
Trying to Live in the Moment (and Not on the Phone) - NYTimes.com

Friday, October 17, 2014

OS X 10.10 Yosemite: The Ars Technica Review | Ars Technica

Final paragraphs of an in-depth review that starts here

"Viewed in isolation, Yosemite provides a graphical refresh accompanied by a few interesting features and several new technologies whose benefits are mostly speculative, depending heavily on how eagerly they’re adopted by third-party developers. But Apple no longer views the Mac in isolation, and neither should you. OS X is finally a full-fledged peer to iOS; all aspects of sibling rivalry have been banished.

The Mac today is just one part of a conceptually, organizationally, and (increasingly) technologically unified platform that spans from wrist to workstation. The hardware-based platforms of the past remain relevant to developers, but Apple seems determined to make them much less important to its customers. With Yosemite, the Mac has taken its first step into a larger world."
OS X 10.10 Yosemite: The Ars Technica Review | Ars Technica

First Impressions of the iPad Air 2: Refreshed but Not Reinvented - WSJ - WSJ

Looking at Apple's iPad model comparison page, the (original) iPad Air is now the entry-level 9.7" display option, and the iPad mini, at $249, is the low-price option (and the only iPad option without a Retina display)

"There’s talk that tablets, just four years old, are having an identity crisis.

That’s premature. I got to spend a little time with the iPad Air 2 after Apple’s event on Thursday. My first impression is that Apple wants to make the statement that iPads are something unique—not all-in-one computers or laptop replacements. They’re a kind of computer you can hold in your hands that immerses you in watching video, reading books, browsing the Web, playing games, and completing tasks that are best done with fingers on a touch screen.

And for those tasks, Apple didn’t need to reinvent the tablet but improve on it. I think they’ve done that—but there could be more, particularly where business people and younger users are concerned."
First Impressions of the iPad Air 2: Refreshed but Not Reinvented - WSJ - WSJ

Apple Pay Draws Hundreds of Banks - WSJ - WSJ

Pay to play

"Hundreds of financial institutions are jumping onto Apple Inc. ’s new mobile-payment system, hoping to keep a tight grip on customers who might otherwise be tempted to switch banks if their current debit and credit cards can’t be used with the newest iPhone.
[...]
The number of new participants helps Apple build on its strong start wading into the payments business. Apple has said that the initial banks that signed up for Apple Pay represent 83% of credit-card purchase volume in the U.S."
Apple Pay Draws Hundreds of Banks - WSJ - WSJ

Analysts Ask What’s Next for Google - NYTimes.com

Google in transition (e.g., to a bigger emphasis on mobile search and advertising)

"Despite its challenges, Google remains a fast-growing business. Third-quarter revenue increased 20 percent, to $16.5 billion.

And the company is making money in many new kinds of ways. Google reported that “other revenue,” a large portion of which is Google’s Play Store, increased 50 percent from the same quarter of last year, to $1.8 billion. But research-and-development costs have soared, to $2.7 billion from $1.8 billion from the same quarter a year ago."
Analysts Ask What’s Next for Google - NYTimes.com

Cord-Cutters Rejoice: CBS Joins Web Stream - NYTimes.com

Another unhappy development for Netflix

"Just one day after HBO said it would start an Internet-only offering, CBS announced on Thursday its own subscription streaming service that lets people watch its live programming and thousands of current and past shows on demand.

The moves signal a watershed moment for web-delivered television, where viewers have more options to pay only for the networks or programs they want to watch — and to decide how, when and where to watch them. Rapidly fading are the days in which people pay an average of $90 a month for a bundle of networks from a traditional provider."
Cord-Cutters Rejoice: CBS Joins Web Stream - NYTimes.com

Apple shows off new gadgets, but Pay is bigger bet - Business - The Boston Globe

No major surprises in Apple's event yesterday, but some impressive refinements, and big expectations for Apple Pay

"Apple showed off thinner iPads and a new iMac with a high-resolution display on Thursday. Sleek and stunning, yes, but not likely to spark the next iRevolution. The tech giant’s bigger strategic bet is that mobile pay service Apple Pay, debuting Monday, will be the next thing you didn’t know you needed — but now can’t live without."
Apple shows off new gadgets, but Pay is bigger bet - Business - The Boston Globe