Start up: the Samsung conflict, Google Analytics v Edge, Windows 95 v 10, Android woes and more


A smart cap could tell you if your milk had gone off – so much more accurate than someone’s nose. Photo by alisdair on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Because you can take it. (You’d better, I’m taking a three-week holiday break.) I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Samsung’s profit center » Asymco

Horace Dediu:

Phone operating margins [at Samsung] peaked in Q1 2014 at 20% but are half that level today. These margins have dropped to levels Samsung had in 2009, before the Galaxy launched and before they had any substantial revenues from smartphones.

In contrast, the semiconductor group is growing both revenues and margins. Margins and operating profits are both 50% higher than those of devices.

We also know that Apple is Samsung Semiconductor’s single biggest customer. We can’t be sure how much of the total revenue/profit comes from Apple but if the pattern continues then Apple could be the greatest contributor to Samsung’s profitability in the near future.

How could this be? Wasn’t Samsung supposed to “disrupt” Apple?

The reality is that Samsung’s own smartphones are being disrupted by good-enough Android devices, typically made by Chinese brands. This low-end disruption is also affecting LG, another phone maker and Apple supplier.

Unlike Samsung and LG, Apple is less susceptible to low-end disruption. What Apple offers is a brand promise, an ecosystem, associated products and services and what amounts to a new market. It’s this parallel value network that competes with Android/Google, rather than with Samsung.

I’ll add another data point: the “phone operating margins” actually cover the IM [IT & Mobile] division, which includes PCs and (I believe) cameras. In the latest quarter, the non-phone revenue in the IM division was below US$500m, for the first time in at least four years. That suggests we’re very close to seeing the true profit margin of Samsung’s phone business, as the non-phone business probably doesn’t perturb the very much larger (US$22bn, ie over 44x larger) phone business.

And read Dediu’s post for the killer payoff line.
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Google loses bid to overturn low-cost patent licenses to Microsoft » Reuters

Andrew Chung:

In a setback for Google, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday that the low licensing rate Microsoft pays to use some of Google’s Motorola Mobility patents had been properly set.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said a lower court judge properly determined the patents’ value even though the royalty rate was only a fraction of what Motorola had asked for. Google sold the Motorola handset business to Lenovo last year but kept its patents.

The court also upheld $14.5m awarded to Microsoft for Motorola’s breach of contract to license its patents fairly.

Patents at issue being standards-essential; Motorola kicked it off demanding $4bn per year. Judge James Robart put the royalty rate at $1.8m per year.
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BT hands £129m back to UK.gov after beating rural broadband targets » The Register

Simon Rockman:

Both BT and the Ministry of Fun – or the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, if you prefer – have spun BT’s toeing-the-line-of-a-contractual-obligation as unbridled generosity towards taxpayers.

A statement from the Minister of Fun, John Whittingdale, said:

It’s fantastic to see that the rollout of superfast broadband is delivering for customers and for the taxpayer. The Government was clear from the start that as levels of people taking up superfast broadband went beyond our expectations in areas where we invested public money, BT would reimburse the taxpayer for reinvesting into further coverage across the UK. This now means that BT will be providing up to £129m cashback for some of the most hard to reach areas.
The funding was part of a Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project which has the aims of:

• provide superfast broadband coverage to 90 per cent of the UK by 2016
• provide basic broadband (2Mbps) for all by 2016
• provide superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017
• explore options to get near universal superfast broadband coverage across the UK by 2018
• create 22 “SuperConnected Cities” across the UK by 2015
• improve mobile coverage in remote areas by 2016

Speaking as someone who keeps finding themselves somehow forever in that “it’s coming in a couple of years, honest” part of the country (which seems to be a lot larger than 5%), I’d prefer Whittingdale to be lighting a fire under BT, and for Ofcom to demand that BT Openreach (which does the infrastructure) be split from the rest of BT.

After all, power generators don’t own the power lines, rail operators don’t own the track; why does BT own the phone lines?
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Enterprises retake lead in tech adoption » Deloitte CIO – WSJ

Apparently a sort of chief information officer-focussed niche of the WSJ, this has the entertaining premise that:

many believe this trend of consumer-originated innovations entering the workplace, dubbed the consumerization of IT, will become the dominant model going forward. But there is strong evidence that the pendulum is swinging back to enterprise-first adoption, with organizations likely to capture more near-term value than consumers in the following four technology areas:

Which areas? Let’s see: wearables; 3D printers; drones; Internet of Things. Not a chance on wearables – enterprise adoption and value will lag far behind consumers (already does). On 3D printing, businesses are already ahead through prototyping, so no contest. On drones, again, armies got there first, so not really at issue. And IoT? It’s such a pain at present for most people that again, it’s left to businesses which have the time and patience to deploy. But I’d bet once IoT stuff becomes prevalent enough, it will be widely used by the ordinary folk.
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The challenge of tracking Microsoft’s new Edge browser in Google Analytics » GeekWire

Even though Edge is now in the wild, tracking usage and adoption of the browser is going to be problematic for many web developers and site owners because tracking for Edge is not yet supported in Google Analytics.

Web developers and designers frequently consult Google Analytics to answer important browser usage questions for their website. Answers to questions like “Do we need to still support IE8?” or “Are there enough users affected by this particular Chrome bug to implement a hack to fix it?” are usually answered by running a browser usage report in Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides an easy way to break down a website’s readers by their OS, browser and browser version, except in the case of Edge.

Taking a look at Google Analytics reports for Operating System Version in Windows, you’ll notice that there is no version 10 listed.

WTH, Google? (Via Richard Burte.)
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UC Berkeley engineers devise 3D-printed ‘Smart Cap’ to check safety of milk, juice » Food Safety News

The “smart cap” has an embedded inductor-capacitor tank as the wireless passive sensor and can monitor the quality of milk and juice wirelessly, the article stated.

“A quick flip of the carton allowed a bit of milk to get trapped in the cap’s capacitor gap, and the entire carton was then left unopened at room temperature (about 71.6 degrees F) for 36 hours,” according to a university news report.

The result shows a 4.3% resonance frequency shift from milk stored in the room temperature environment for that period. This work establishes an innovative approach to construct arbitrary 3D systems with embedded electrical structures as integrated circuitry for various applications, including the demonstrated passive wireless sensors, the article explained.

The Berkeley folk are saying “hey, people will print them out at home!” while everyone else is saying “this would be so useful in mass-produced containers”.

So here’s a picture of the 3D printer that the UC Berkeley people think you’ll want to print out milk carton tops with.
UC Berkely 3D printer
Yeah, I’ll have two – you never know when you might need a spare.
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The fastest-growing mobile phone markets barely use apps » Quartz

Africa and Asia, the two fastest growing mobile markets, aren’t very big on apps.

The overwhelming majority of mobile internet activity in the regions is spent on web pages, according to a report released on 28 July by Opera Mediaworks. In Asia and Africa, websites made up 90% and 96% of mobile impressions, respectively, in the second quarter.

Their habits are a sharp contrast to the US, where apps accounted for 91% of impressions. Globally, there’s a more even distribution, with apps making up 56% of mobile impressions and websites comprising the remainder…

…“A big portion of the mobile audience in mobile-first regions like Africa and [Asia-Pacific] are still using low-end feature phones because of the cost factor,” a spokesman tells Quartz. “This therefore compels them to use the mobile web more than apps, which are usually dominant on smartphones.”

Today’s challenger for the “well duh” prize.
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Windows 10 launched so quietly you may have missed it » The Guardian

Some two-bit hack blathering about a new version of Windows:

Windows 10’s biggest new feature? It’s free if you download it within the next year, and will install on machines running Windows 7 or Windows 8. Its second biggest feature? It isn’t Windows 8, which was released in 2012 and created widespread puzzlement by submerging the traditional desktop interface beneath big, bright “tiles” and getting rid of the familiar, popular Start menu.

That puzzlement soon turned to anger, forcing the ejection of the man who had led Windows 8’s development, Steve Sinofsky, and the introduction of Windows 8.1, which, while it didn’t bring the Start menu, did at least let you start off in desktop mode.

Now, Microsoft breezily says, “the familiar Start menu is back”, as though it had been on holiday rather than unceremoniously dumped.

On reflection, the biggest feature of Windows 10 is that it isn’t Windows 8. Being free is its second-biggest.
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August 1995: A window we will all want to open » The Independent

Some two-bit hack blathering about a new version of Windows:

Microsoft’s computer program lines up with a number of other classic products: the Biro, aerosols, the Sony Walkman, the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, the Mini and the compact disc. It is a piece of technology which has arrived at just the right time to satisfy people’s wants.

Like those other classic products, Windows 95 enhances our personal independence and autonomy, and makes our lives more convenient. It draws everyone deeper into the existence of the “me” generation. Thus, aerosols let you manage your hair, your hygiene, your cleaning as you choose: convenience in a can. A Biro can write for far longer than a fountain pen, and when it’s finished you simply throw it away. The Mini, costing £400 in its first incarnation, made car ownership possible for the young and relatively poor, not just the comfortably well-off. The Walkman provided everyone with their own personal environment: the music (or noise) that you want at the volume you choose.

But like those earlier products, Windows 95 also exemplifies a wider economic and cultural trend. Just as globalisation gives corporations multinational reach, their products link physically and culturally diverse peoples, homogenising aspects of our lifestyles and, literally, connecting us up. Software can be “shipped” over a telephone line across borders; Windows 95 will be the same in Australia or the Arctic.

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CNET’s early coverage of Windows 95, back in 1995 » YouTube

CNET’s first impression of Windows 95 was that it would create a huge impact, what with the long file names, taskbar and a recycle bin for unwanted files. Check out this vintage review along with Microsoft’s own promotional video that went with the launch.

Here’s the video:

(The presenter is Richard Hart.)

How far we’ve come. No, don’t disagree. Look at that video of the Fonz.
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The security flaw Google built into Android » MIT Technology Review

Tom Simonite:

Google can’t push you an update for Android. It hands out the operating system to device manufacturers for free. They get to tinker with it to add features or apps of their own and are the only ones—along with cellular carriers in some cases —that can push updates to the devices they sell. Google does bind companies that use Android with some restrictions (for example to do with using its app store) but doesn’t require them to push out security updates quickly.

That leaves users of Android devices unable to avail themselves of what security experts say is the most important strategy for staying safe, at least according to researchers at none other than Google itself. They reported last week on a survey that asked computer security pros how they stay safe. Applying security updates emerged as the experts’ number one priority.

Google has lately come up with workarounds for Android’s flawed security model. It has shunted many key functions into apps that it can push updates to via its app store. But that doesn’t cover all of Android, and the app store doesn’t have a way to signal to you whether an app wants to update for security reasons or just to add new features.

The text message vulnerability revealed today can’t be fully fixed by upgrading apps. And it’s not unlikely that most vulnerable phones will never get the security patches for Android that Google has developed and will offer up to manufacturers and cellular operators.

Android has done spectacularly well, but one feels that it’s overdue its Blaster moment.
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One thought on “Start up: the Samsung conflict, Google Analytics v Edge, Windows 95 v 10, Android woes and more

  1. In 1959, my no frills, no extras brand new red Morris Mini-Minor cost me £497 (+ a lot of dealer costs on top). The young and the relatively poor would almost certainly have been looking to buy used, then as now the economic route to car ownership.

    Loved my Mini, lasted me 25 years.

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