Start up: the Nexus puzzle, Stagefright 2.0 (bigger!), T-Mobile US data hack, Fiorina’s iPod miss and more


How do you make cakes sell better if they make people feel guilty? Photo by ricardogz10 on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Google’s Nexus phones are just ads » The Verge

Vlad Savov:

new Nexus phones are also profitless love letters to fans, designed to induce goodwill for the Google brand. How can a company that depends on making money from each unit of hardware sold hope to compete with that?

Motorola went all-out with the Moto X Pure this year, seeking to deliver the cleanest possible Android experience, best possible specs, and lowest possible price, all while operating independently of carrier interference. That’s as close to Google’s Nexus ideal as any Android manufacturer has ever come. So if Google’s Nexus motivation was truly to set a template of good practices to follow, to define a user experience benchmark, and to seed the development of a better Android ecosystem, it would have stopped and applauded Motorola for its efforts this year.

Instead, Google is undercutting the $399 Moto X Pure with the $379 Nexus 5X, which has the added benefit of a fingerprint sensor and matches the Moto X with a highly rated camera capable of 4K video. I don’t know whether to describe this as a knife in the back or an arrow to the knee, but Google’s actions are certainly doing violence to its Android partners’ best-laid plans.

Lenovo/Motorola’s mobile division loses money. So it’s pretty certain that if the Nexus phones undercut them, they lose money. That makes them deflationary to the Android ecosystem; it’s as though Microsoft were selling $150 full-spec PCs under its own brand. Savov hits the nail on the head (once more): the Nexus program just doesn’t make sense in a wider view.
link to this extract


Stagefright 2.0: MP3 and MP4 can hack billion Android phones » Fortune

Robert Hackett:

It’s time to evacuate the Android dance floor—lest you be infected by the sound.

Two new critical vulnerabilities in Google’s mobile operating system announced by security researchers on Thursday put more than a billion Android devices at risk of being hacked. That means “almost every Android device” is affected, ranging from Android version 1.0 to the latest version 5.0, also known as “Lollipop,” the researcher said.

Attackers can exploit these computer bugs by tricking users into visiting websites that host malicious MP3 or MP4 files. Once a victim previews one of these infected multimedia files, which commonly package music or video, that person’s machine can swiftly be compromised. The issue involves how Android processes these files’ metadata through a media playback engine named Stagefright.

Yes, it’s Stagefright, and it’s back; it can once more access data, cameras, microphone and photos. But on pretty much any Android phone ever. It’s incredibly unlikely to be exploited by any but state-level hackers.

Still, Google was told on 15 August, and sent updates to OEMs and carriers on September 10. Have they rolled out? Find out by using Zimperium’s Stagefright detector app. (You have to love the reviews complaining that it shows “false positives”.)
link to this extract


Amazon to ban sale of Apple, Google video-streaming devices » Bloomberg Business

Spencer Soper:

Amazon.com is flexing its e-commerce muscles to gain an edge on competitors in the video-streaming market by ending the sale of devices from Google and Apple that aren’t easily compatible with Amazon’s video service.

The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast. No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said. Amazon’s streaming service, called Prime Video, doesn’t run easily on its rival’s hardware.

Filed under “strategy tax”. Possibly the profits on the Apple TV and Chromecast weren’t very high, but Amazon still sells smart TVs that don’t play Prime Video.
link to this extract


CEO responds to Experian data breach » T-Mobile

John Legere:

We have been notified by Experian, a vendor that processes our credit applications, that they have experienced a data breach. The investigation is ongoing, but what we know right now is that the hacker acquired the records of approximately 15 million people, including new applicants requiring a credit check for service or device financing from September 1, 2013 through September 16, 2015. These records include information such as name, address and birthdate as well as encrypted fields with Social Security number and ID number (such as driver’s license or passport number), and additional information used in T-Mobile’s own credit assessment. Experian has determined that this encryption may have been compromised. We are working with Experian to take protective steps for all of these consumers as quickly as possible.

Obviously I am incredibly angry about this data breach and we will institute a thorough review of our relationship with Experian, but right now my top concern and first focus is assisting any and all consumers affected. I take our customer and prospective customer privacy VERY seriously.

Sure, you take it seriously, Mr Legere (and I mean that seriously) but there’s a single point of failure in the way that you trusted a third party with your customers’ data. That’s poor system design, which means that actually customer privacy wasn’t taken that seriously. Wonder if a class action will follow.
link to this extract


Xiaomi confronts an unnerving time » WSJ

Li Yuan speaks to Xiaomi’s founder Lei Jun:

How Xiaomi responds [to new challengers] could offer a clue to how well China’s booming tech industry transitions to its next stage. Riding a wave of growing mobile Internet adoption, China’s technology sector has churned out significant global companies and minted fortunes. But growth is slowing across the board, presenting challenges to a new generation of entrepreneurs who must learn how to manage in tougher times.

Mr. Lei sees a five-year lull in smartphone innovation that will make “wow” moments harder to come by, and will require competitors to focus on user experience to differentiate and tap consumer niches. The key, he says, is to provide value.

“We’re doing what Uniqlo, Muji and Ikea have been doing,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to make good but cheap things.”

That five-year lull is quite a thing to contemplate.
link to this extract


The cost of mobile ads on 50 news websites » The New York Times

Gregor Aisch, Wilson Andrews and Josh Keller:

Ad blockers, which Apple first allowed on the iPhone in September, promise to conserve data and make websites load faster. But how much of your mobile data comes from advertising? We measured the mix of advertising and editorial on the mobile home pages of the top 50 news websites – including ours – and found that more than half of all data came from ads and other content filtered by ad blockers.

It’s a hell of a graphic. The “cost to load” data is eye-opening: it’s pretty much always far, far bigger than that of the editorial. (Why? I mean, one comes for the editorial, including pictures; why are ads so much bigger?) The Guardian comes a long way down the list – as in, it has a very low ad load – which might be, I suspect, because the US version of the site doesn’t yet have that many ads.

There’s an accompanying article by Brian X Chen, which also appeared in print.

Note too that articles like this fulfils one of my expectations ahead of the launch of iOS 9: it spreads the word of the existence of this facility on iOS, which will lead to Android users wanting to know how they can get it too.
link to this extract


A creativity lesson from Betty Crocker » Psychology Today

Drew Boyd:

In the 1950s, General Mills launched a line of cake mixes under the famous Betty Crocker brand. The cake mixes included all the dry ingredients in the package, plus milk and eggs in powdered form. All you needed was to add water, mix it all together, and stick the pan in the oven. For busy homemakers, it saved time and effort, and the recipe was virtually error free. General Mills had a sure winner on its hands.

Or so it thought. Despite the many benefits of the new product, it did not sell well. Even the iconic and trusted Betty Crocker brand could not convince homemakers to adopt the new product.

General Mills brought in a team of psychologists. Something unusual was going on. The company needed to make its next move very carefully if it was going to get this product off the ground.

Why were consumers resisting it? The short answer: guilt. The psychologists concluded that average American housewives felt bad using the product despite its convenience. It saved so much time and effort when compared with the traditional cake baking routine that they felt they were deceiving their husbands and guests. In fact, the cake tasted so good that people thought women were spending hours baking. Women felt guilty getting more credit than they deserved. So they stopped using the product.

Now think carefully: what’s your next step? (Scrapping the line is not an option.) I wonder if there are any lessons for smartphone makers in this.
link to this extract


How Steve Jobs fleeced Carly Fiorina » Medium

Steven Levy utterly destroys any claims to negotiating competence that would-be Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina might have, pointing to the many ways that Jobs steamrollered her (from the colour of the iPod to the pre-installation of iTunes on HP PCs). But this is the coup de grace:

The ultimate irony is that if Fiorina had been familiar with the assets of the company she ran, she might have had much more leverage to cut a better deal with Jobs. When she made her disastrous 2002 acquisition of Compaq, HP took possession of its patents, including those generated by the research division of the Digital Equipment Corporation, the iconic minicomputer company that Compaq itself bought in 1998. It turns out that researchers in DEC’s Palo Alto lab had created a hard-disk MP3 player — essentially inventing key parts of the iPod several years before Apple did. The project never got any love, though a clunky version of it had actually been announced at CES in 2000. Still, among the patents DEC secured were some very broad ones regarding the way music was drawn from the disk drive while conserving battery power. Had Fiorina known this, she might had been able to get a much better deal with Apple  —  because she could have credibly claimed that the iPod infringed on HP’s intellectual property.

Based on this, you’d have to (holds nose) vote for Trump. At least he has actually succeeded in negotiations, and created rather than destroyed shareholder value. If, that is, you think those are things that matter in presidential candidates. Which isn’t self-evident.
link to this extract


EMV’s reality: more online fraud » PaymentsSource

Rurik Bradbury:

Only 22% of small to mid-sized retailers reported that they are prepared to meet the [October 1] deadline [when retailers have to make customers use EMV-compliant payment terminals]. And, according to a recent SoftwareAdvice.com study, 23% believe upgrading to EMV is unnecessary.

Additional data from a large research firm suggests that almost 50% of U.S. retailers will not be EMV-compliant by the end of 2015. These merchants, just under half of all U.S. retailers, will be in for a rude awakening when they start receiving chargeback bills for fraudulent transactions.

The shift to EMV should significantly reduce in-store fraud for retailers that upgrade their payments processing systems, as the new cards will have an embedded chip that generates a unique token for each transaction, making them extremely difficult or nearly impossible to counterfeit. However, fraudsters will not just throw in the towel and get day jobs, they will simply change their tactics to exploit less secure payment channels.

In many ways, criminal fraud is like running water, when one area is firmly sealed off, it simply flows to the next open gap, which in this case is e-commerce. In the digital world, only the card digits and Card Verification Value (CVV) are used, and chip technology cannot help, which will make digital payments an easier, more lucrative target for fraudsters to target. According to a study by the Aite Group, in Australia, online or card not present (CNP), fraud increased from $72.6 million AU in 2008 to $198.1 million AU in 2011 – a 100 percent increase in CNP fraud in three years following the EMV upgrade. A similar spike occurred in Canada and the UK after each country migrated to EMV terminals.

The same, or worse is expected to happen in the U.S.

link to this extract


Apple’s software king Eddy Cue on streaming battles, the iPhone 6s and getting rid of roaming charges » London Evening Standard

Jimi Famurewa got some time just ahead of the iPhone launch. Most of the interview is straightforward, but for this snippet at the end:

[Cue] taps his phone and makes an offhand comment about “trying not to get roaming charges” while in London which, I note, proves how insanely expensive phone calls and data can be abroad. “It’s sad, it’s another problem,” says Cue. “We’re trying to fix it and we’re making a little bit of progress but you’ve got to convince a lot of people.” It sounds like an impossible task. But that, you would imagine, is where the famous flair will come in.

“We’re trying to fix it”? That throwaway remark is going to fuel a lot of “OMG Apple roaming MVNO” talk. But it’s certainly not an accident.
link to this extract


The new Apple Maps vs. Google Maps: which is right for you? » Howto Geek

Chris Stobing:

If you’ve been using Google Maps for a number of years and your account already has all your contacts saved – great, go for Google. If you prefer to use Siri to launch your Maps application or want to be able to see where you’re going without having to unlock the phone, Apple Maps is on the job. There may have been a point in time when Google Maps held the crown as the best (and for awhile; only) real map app out there, but now Apple Maps lives alongside its legacy with just as much functionality and flexibility as the rest.

“Apple Maps in ‘no longer as bad as on first day'” shocker. (Plus “Google Maps unable to improve beyond where it was three years ago”.) The biggest gap is in public transport; while apps can close that, it’s still unsatisfying when your only offerings are cars or Shanks’s pony.
link to this extract


Samsung TVs appear less energy efficient in real life than in tests » The Guardian

Arthur Nelsen:

The lab studies found that Samsung’s ‘motion lighting’ feature reduced the TV sets’ brightness – and power consumption – under international electrotechnical commission (IEC) test conditions. These involve the playback of fast sequences of varied material, such as recorded TV shows, DVDs and live broadcasts.

But under real-world viewing conditions, no reductions in power consumption were registered, making the sets’ power consumption, fuel bills and carbon emissions correspondingly higher.

After tests in February, a ComplianTV report, which did not name Samsung, said: “The laboratories observed different TV behaviours during the measurements and this raised the possibility of the TV’s detecting a test procedure and adapting their power consumption accordingly. Such phenomenon was not proven within the ComplianTV tests, but some tested TVs gave the impression that they detected a test situation.”

“Samsung is meeting the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law,” Rudolf Heinz, the project manager of ComplianTV’s product lab, told the Guardian.

Oh, come on, Samsung would never.. oh.
link to this extract


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s