Start up: Monumental confusion, obligatory (useless) 4K, drone cost surprise, Yahoo’s search inroad, ereaders stall, and more


However, it’s rather difficult to define quite what constitutes “piracy” in some situations. Photo from robotson on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Not valid in Ohio. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Mobile game piracy isn’t all bad, says Monument Valley producer (Q&A) » Re/code

Remember the remarkable “95% unpaid installs on Android, 60% on iOS” stat from Us Two Games? Here’s a followup:

Re/code: First off, how was that 95 percent statistic determined?

Dan Gray: Five percent are paid downloads, so the ratio is 9.5 to 1, but a portion of those are people who have both a phone and a tablet, people who have more than one Android device with them. So a small portion of that 95 percent is going to be taken up by those installs.

Q: Do you know how big that portion is?

A: It’s impossible for us to track that data. The only thing we can do is, two bits of data: One, how many purchases we have and, two, how many installs we’ve got. And we just leave people to draw conclusions from that as they wish, because we can’t clarify any further than that…

…When you compare the most affluent regions, obviously that kind of slants it toward developing markets and Android devices, where people are less inclined to spend $4 on a game. Let’s say you take U.S. only: those paid rates for Android and iOS are actually considerably closer. They’re closer than five and 40%.


The TidBITS Wishlist for Apple in 2015 » TidBITS

Though Apple fulfilled many user wishes in 2014, there is still more to be done. Here are some of what the TidBITS crew would like to see from Apple in 2015. We’ll circle back to this article at the end of the year to see what changed.

Tidbits is a longstanding online Mac weekly newsletter/site, and all the points made here – too many to enumerate briefly – are spot-on. This ought to be circulated within Apple.


4K TVs are coming for you, even if you don’t want them » Yahoo Tech

Rob Pegoraro, pointing out that manufacturers are pushing 4K resolution as hard as they can, despite the lack of bandwidth to transmit it or content to show. And there’s another thing:

Will you see that added resolution from your couch? You will on the CES show floor, where the crowds force you to within a few feet of sets that span from 50 to more than 100in across. From that perspective, 4K TVs almost always look spectacular.

Things change when you’re gazing at a 4K screen smaller than 55 inches (Samsung’s start at 48 inches and Sharp’s at 43 inches) from across the living room. In many cases, your existing set already shows all the resolution you can discern with 20/20 vision.

How close will you need to sit to see all those extra pixels? A Panasonic rep said the company recommends a viewing distance of 3.5 feet for a 50in 4K set, the smallest it will sell this year. That’s cozy even by Manhattan-apartment standards.

The average screen size has crept up — the NPD Group says 50 to 64in now represents the mainstream of the market — but the math of visual acuity suggests that to get sufficient benefit from 4K, you’re best off buying at the upper end of that scale.

I’ve seen the point made repeatedly that you won’t get any benefit from 4K across the average living room. This isn’t going to prevent a spec-based marketing push though.


The privacy tool that wasn’t: SocialPath malware pretends to protect your data, then steals it » Lookout Blog

Lookout recently discovered SocialPath, a piece of malware that advertises itself as an online reputation management tool. It claims that it will alert its users any time their photo is uploaded somewhere on the Internet. Instead, it steals the victim’s data.

We found one variant associated with this family in Google Play. We alerted Google to the malware and it has since been removed. This app offers a slightly different service — it promises to act as a backup service saving your contacts. It says it will also soon add features for saving your photos, videos, and other data “so if you lose your phone, you will not lose its contents.”

SocialPath targets Sudan predominantly — a region that has been rife with political unrest since the country split when an oil-rich South Sudan seceded.

Unclear whether it’s a nefarious government scheme – seems unlikely, but just possible. However then we come to Lookout’s advice:

You should always:
• Download apps from trusted developers — read reviews, research the developers, make sure you’re choosing a trustworthy product, especially if this tool is promising to help you protect sensitive information
• Don’t download apps from third party marketplaces

But this was on Google Play, at least in one variant. How do you decide in that situation?


Can drones deliver? (PDF) » IEEE Xplore

A guest editorial on the economic viability (or otherwise) of Amazon’s drone delivery, by Rafaeillo D’Andrea, formerly of Kiva:

A high-end lithium-ion battery costs roughly $300/kW h, and can be cycled about 500 times, resulting in a cost of roughly 0.8 cents per km for a 2 kg payload. The total cost of batteries and power is thus 1 cent per km for a 2 kg payload.

So, is package delivery using flying machines feasible? From a cost perspective, the numbers do not look unreasonable: the operating costs directly associated with the vehicle are on the order of 10 cents for a 2 kg payload and a 10 km range. I compare this to the 60 cents per item that we used over a decade ago in our Kiva business plan for the total cost of delivery, and it does not seem outlandish.

This seems surprising, and it would be helpful to know what proportion of Amazon deliveries are 2kg or less. There’s a non-PDF version with more discussion at Robohub.


Xiaomi’s Ambition » stratechery

Ben Thompson, explaining how demographics and non-renting in China works in Xiaomi’s favour as it expands its portfolio with super-keen fan buyers:

This, then, is the key to understanding Xiaomi: they’re not so much selling smartphones as they are selling a lifestyle, and the key to that lifestyle is MiUI, Xiaomi’s software layer that ties all of these things together.

In fact, you could argue that Xiaomi is actually the first “Internet of Things” company: unlike Google (Nest), Apple (HomeKit), or even Samsung (SmartThings), all of whom are offering some sort of open SDK to tie everything together (a necessity given that most of their customers already have appliances that won’t be replaced anytime soon) Xiaomi is integrating everything itself and selling everything one needs on Mi.com to a fan base primed to outfit their homes for the very first time. It’s absolutely a vertical strategy – the company is like Apple after all – it’s just that the product offering is far broader than anything even Gene Munster [proponent for years of a TV set from Apple] could imagine. The services Lei Jun talks about sell the products and tie them all together, but they are all Xiaomi products in the end.

Just bear in mind that there are about a billion people in China, and the one-child rule is being relaxed, and you begin to glimpse how big Xiaomi could be. “A computer on every desk”? Pah. A Xiaomi device in every room in all of China and beyond, more like.


“Best” Apple Mac mini (Late 2014) 2.8GHz review » Macworld UK

Andrew Harrison:

one thing we don’t ordinarily expect is for a newly revised computer to appear which computes more slower than the model that it replaces. Particularly when there’s been not one but two long years between the now-obsolete and shiny new editions.

That’s exactly what’s happened with Apple’s 2014 model of the Mac mini though. Today’s 2014 Mac mini range is in many respects slower than the 2012 range it replaces. Read: 2014 Mac mini v 2012 Mac mini comparison review.

Utterly amazing. It doesn’t offer a quad-core option, the RAM is soldered in place, and changing the disk drive is nigh on impossible. It’s like the worst sort of con job that Apple used to pull when Steve Jobs was in charge. I’d love to hear the reasons for these changes-that-aren’t-improvements.


Yahoo achieves highest US search share since 2009 » StatCounter Global Stats

In December Yahoo achieved its highest US search share for over five years according to the latest data from StatCounter, the independent website analytics provider. Google fell to the lowest monthly share yet recorded by the company*. These December stats coincide with Mozilla making Yahoo the default search engine for Firefox 34 users in the US.

StatCounter Global Stats reports that in December Google took 75.2% of US search referrals followed by Bing on 12.5% and Yahoo on 10.4%.

If you allow that StatCounter’s numbers are correct, Yahoo moved from 8.2% of US search in November 2014 to 10.4% in December. How many Firefox users does that represent? How many have yet to move to version 34? How many have/will switch their default from Yahoo back to Google? One to watch.


Kindle sales have ‘disappeared’, says UK’s largest book retailer » Telegraph

Waterstones, which expects to break even this year. plans to open at least a dozen more shops this year as the ebook revolution appears to go in reverse.

Amazon launched the Kindle, which is now in its seventh generation, in 2007. Sales peaked in 2011 at around 13.44m, according to Forbes. That figure fell to 9.7m in 2012, with sales flat the following year. It is estimated that Amazon has sold around 30m Kindles in total.
At the same time, British consumers spent £2.2bn on print in 2013, compared with just £300m on ebooks, according to Nielsen.

London bookstore Foyles has reported a surge in sales of physical books over Christmas.
US book giant Barnes & Noble is looking to spin off its Nook ereader business, which is estimated to be losing $70m a year. Meanwhile, core sales, excluding Nook, rose 5pc in the most recent quarter.

It seems that e-readers had a natural ceiling on adoption, which was far short of 100% (or even 90%). That in turn means that ebooks aren’t going to take over the world. Physical books, meanwhile, are pretty much guaranteed a readership somewhere. Now the challenge for publishers is working out the correct balance of effort and investment to put into ebooks and physical ones.


A&E in crisis: a special report » Daily Telegraph

Robert Colville:

here’s where I’m going to start: in a small green-painted room off one of the main corridors of that same hospital, where 10 women and two men are studying the spreadsheet projected on the walls and firing jargon back and forth.

“Four in urology with a decision to admit.” “306 is gone, 728 still waiting.” “With all that agreed, does that give you any ITU capacity?” “They’re desperate to bring the liver over from Worcester.” “Time to be seen is at 1hr 54.”

This is the “Ops Centre” of one of the country’s biggest hospitals, where I am spending the week as a fly on the wall. At this and other daily bed meetings, the senior nurses and managers get together to work out who is in the hospital, and where they need to go next.
They go through, ward by ward, listing spare beds and allocating them to the people in A&E. They can see who’s been waiting longest, where the pressure points are, and what needs to be done to resolve them.

This, then, is the story about the NHS that I want to tell. It’s the story of the NHS as a system – a system that takes millions of patients through from the GP surgery and A&E department to treatment, recovery and discharge.

This is a tour de force from Colville, in a piece so long and deep it could have come from the New Yorker (of the 1980s). If you want to understand the pressures on the UK’s NHS emergency services – which are clearly shown here not to be just about “money” – this is the single article to read.


Reporting on cyberattacks: the media’s urgent problem » Medium

Dave Lee is a (terrific) BBC technology writer, here writing in a personal capacity about the impossibility of knowing what’s really going on in some stories:

Let’s take an active story. The hack on Sony Pictures raises many issues about the reporting of hack attacks, and the coverage so far carries worrying implications.

Experts are queueing up to dispute the FBI’s confident claim that it was North Korea — mainly because the evidence pointing the finger at Kim Jong-un is either a) flakey at best or b) top secret, and therefore not open to scrutiny, journalistic or otherwise.

The result of this political back-and-forth is far-reaching, and one that from here on in is being reported on without anyone having any real clue whether the basis of the story — that it was North Korea — is in any way accurate.

We simply don’t know who did it — and yet the atmosphere created by the coverage means the US is considering reclassifying North Korea as a terrorist state. That move would open the door significantly when it comes to what the US considers a “proportional response” to the attack on Sony.


2 thoughts on “Start up: Monumental confusion, obligatory (useless) 4K, drone cost surprise, Yahoo’s search inroad, ereaders stall, and more

  1. If I can add my comment on the issue of Kindle / ereaders / ebooks, I have, for many years, been reading ebooks on tablet / mobile (Kindle and / or Google Play Books app) but, since reading an article, last month, on how screen affect your sleeping pattern and after some research, decide to get an ereader (Kobo Aura since Kobo allow importing books from different sources and most importantly it allows reading articles saved in Pocket).
    I wish I had done this years ago since the reading experience is more enjoyable (and with less distractions) and easy on the eye.

  2. Pingback: Start up: digging into Samsung’s numbers, Pono launches, a billion tablets!, a CES wearables binge, and more | The Overspill: when there's more that I want to say

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