Start up: Apple’s China watch pricing, Google v EC (and FTC), inside the Watch, and more


Not from Elon Musk, but who knows in future? Photo by Eva the Weaver on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The Apple Watch, China Edition » MarkDMill

Mark Miller:

This is the political and social environment in which the gold Apple Watch Edition enters China. Luxury watches are worn in China as a display of one’s wealth, but right now displaying wealth on one’s wrist is dangerous and, legitimately or not, is taken as a sign of corruption. The gold Apple Watch will sell,  but I would wager an Apple Watch Edition that it won’t be seen on the wrists of government officials or successful business people with political connections (which is most successful business people)–or, if it is seen, that person will quickly be sanctioned or even sacked.

This, then, is why Apple’s positioning of Apple Watch is so brilliant: by releasing Apple Watch Edition at the luxury price of RMB 74,800 ($12,062),1 the “normal” Apple Watch seems downright frugal at RMB 4,188 ($675). Even the most expensive Apple Watch (RMB 8,288; $1336) looks cheap in comparison to the most expensive Apple Watch Edition (RMB 112,800; $18,190). By pricing one collection so high, Apple has managed to make Apple Watch seem downright moderate – even though it costs 15-30% of the average Chinese annual salary!


Twitter meets deep search, and much, much more. — Medium

Mark Yoshitake:

Today Kifi is proud to announce the launch of a Twitter integration that will allow you and millions of others to automatically save links you have shared through Twitter, and use them in an entirely new way. Think of this as a search engine built just for the content you’ve Tweeted. Kifi will also recommend other great content for you to share, based on these links. Join the beta now, its free.

We know one of the huge problems people have is recalling all the wealth of information they’ve found and shared, on Twitter. So we built this incredibly powerful tool to allow you to get back to any link you have shared on Twitter, instantly.

Twitter will either kill this or buy it, won’t it?


iPhone killer: the secret history of the Apple Watch » WIRED

David Pierce:

one thing was clear [to Kevin Lynch, who was surprised to find himself in charge of the project – already underway – on his first day in the job, and two days from a top-level review] from the start: The Watch would succeed or fail on the strength of what’s prosaically called the user interface. The interface would determine whether the Watch ended up displayed in a dozen museums or remembered as Apple’s biggest flop since the Newton.

That’s where Alan Dye comes in. As chief of Apple’s human interface group, he’s in charge of creating the ways you tell your device what to do and how that device responds. Those cool little experiences you have with your laptop and phone and tablet, like when the app icons quiver because they’re ready to move around your screen? That’s the human interface team.

Pierce has written a fantastic piece. The amount of access seems comparable to that afforded the New Yorker. Clearly, Apple wants both the fashion crew and the tech crew to like it; but note how it’s approaching them, in different ways.


Beyond the FTC memorandum: comparing Google’s internal discussions with its public claims » Ben Edelman

Edelman is a specialist in competition law; he has consulted for rivals to Google, including Microsoft, but also for Google. This is a deep dive of what’s in the FTC memorandum and others. Here’s just a taste:

Specialized search and favoring Google’s own services: targeting bad sites or solid competitors?

In public statements, Google often claimed that sites were rightly deprioritized in search results, indicating that demotions targeted “low quality,” “shallow” sites with “duplicate, overlapping, or redundant” content that is “mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators … so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care.” Google Senior Vice President Jonathan Rosenberg chose the colorful phrase “faceless scribes of drivel” to describe sites Google would demote “to the back of the arena.”

But when it came to the competing shopping services Google staff sought to relegate, Google’s internal assessments were quite different. “The bizrate/nextag/epinions pages are decently good results. They are usually well-format[t]ed, rarely broken, load quickly and usually on-topic. Raters tend to like them. …. [R]aters like the variety of choices the meta-shopping site[s] seem… to give” (footnote 154, citing GOOGSING-000014375).

Here too, Google’s senior leaders approved the decision to favor Google’s services. Google co-founder Larry Page personally reviewed the prominence of Google’s services and, indeed, sought to make Google services more prominent. For example: “Larry thought product [Google’s shopping service] should get more exposure” (footnote 120, citing GOOG-Texas-1004148). Product managers agreed, calling it “strategic” to “dial up” Google Shopping (footnote 120, citing GOOG-Texas-0197424). Others noted the competitive importance: Preferred placement of Google’s specialized search services was deemed important to avoid “ced[ing] recent share gains to competitors” (footnote 121, citing GOOG-Texas-0191859) or indeed essential: “most of us on geo [Google Local] think we won’t win unless we can inject a lot more of local directly into google results” (footnote 121, citing GOOGEC-0069974).

The European Commission’s antitrust group has seen the full FTC report. Speaking of the Commission…


EU lays groundwork for antitrust charges against Google » WSJ

Tom Fairless and Alistair Barr:

The European Commission, the European Union’s top antitrust authority, has been asking companies that filed complaints against Google for permission to publish some information they previously submitted confidentially, according to several people familiar with the requests. Shopping, local and travel companies are among those that have been contacted, one of those people said.

A decision to file charges against Google would kick off the EU’s highest-profile antitrust suit since its lengthy campaign that started a decade ago against Microsoft Corp., which paid the bloc €1.7 billion ($1.8 billion) in fines through 2012.

A settlement in Google’s case is always possible. Even if the EU presses ahead with charges, Google could still strike a deal to resolve the bloc’s concerns that the company abuses its dominance in the European search market.

“Publish” doesn’t mean quite what you’d hope. Here’s what happens:
• If – as now seems certain – the EC raises a “Statement of Objections” against Google, it will include in the SOO that gets sent (privately) to Google some of the info that objectors provided to it confidentially.
• So it has to ask them to send that.
• Google looks at the SOO, redacts any info about itself it thinks is commercially confidential, sends that back to the EC.
• The EC sends the now-Google-redacted SOO to objectors, who can comment to the EC about it
• EC has a finished SOO and can use it against Google.

The process then is still lengthy. Expect all this to carry on through 2015 – possibly even to 2016 – before any resolution. But the possibility of a fine exists, and isn’t minimal.

Margrethe Vestager has clearly decided though to take a different tack from her predecessor, Joaquin Almunia; she’s not looking to settle. He tried three times and failed, in the face of objections from those who had complained, and latterly of politicians in Germany and France.


Google Lab puts a time limit on innovations » WSJ

Alistair Barr:

the new emphasis on Advanced Technology and Projects, which upends some Google traditions. Most projects are limited to two years, after which they are killed, moved into Google, spun off into independent firms or licensed to others. The group jettisons project leaders after two years and hires mostly outside experts.

There have been 11 projects in the group, including Ara, a smartphone with switchable components; Tango, a 3-D mapping technology; and Spotlight Stories, interactive animations and short films for smaller phone screens.

The approach is the brainchild of Regina Dugan, the former head of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. She joined Motorola, then a division of Google, in 2012 and is close to [Eric] Schmidt, who’s been spending more time at the research lab recently.

“We like this model because it puts pressure on people to perform and do relevant things or stop,” Mr. Schmidt said. “I’ve spent an awful lot of time on projects that never end and products that would never ship.”

Is there just a little note of.. anxiety here? (In passing, Alistair Barr has been doing some great, solid reporting of late.)


Slack hack and broken model of centralized data » Medium

Muneeb Ali:

The interesting thing about security is no one cares about it until shit hits the fan. That shiny new product feature you’re working on seems so much more important than securing your chat logs. Our solution was to simply stop talking about anything sensitive over Slack. You can afford to do that when you’re a small startup and literally sit next to each other. But you can’t scale this as you grow.

To me the Slack hack is yet another reminder that centralized models are broken by design. Slack is an awesome company and I’m sure they’ll comply with the best security practices. It doesn’t look like the hacker got access to chat logs in this hack. But that still means that Slack is a single point of failure. They’re a prime target for hackers. A single place from where confidential information of a lot of other companies can be accessed.

Ali’s company Onename uses a blockchain-based approach for decentralised identity. Interesting approach.


Musk’s tweeted promise not such a surprise after all » FT Tech blog

Richard Waters:

there are no real surprises here, it seems. Speaking on a Tesla earnings call on February 11th, he said the company was working on a “consumer battery that will be for use in people’s houses or businesses”, with a product unveiling “probably in the next month or two”.

SolarCity – the installer of solar systems of which Musk is also chairman – says on its own website that it has been experimenting with a Tesla-branded residential battery at 300 test sites, with another 130 to come. It promises to have a storage product “available again in late summer 2015,” which also fits with the Musk tweet timeline.

The solar company promotes the residential battery as an emergency back-up in case the utility grid fails, “such as after an earthquake or other natural disasters”. That sounds like a product for a niche market: it will be interesting to see how Musk presents it next month.


One thought on “Start up: Apple’s China watch pricing, Google v EC (and FTC), inside the Watch, and more

  1. Pingback: Start up: Yahoo’s mobile trouble, BLARPing, Galaxy S6’s slow start?, killing iOS, and more | The Overspill: when there's more that I want to say

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