Start up: Samsung pays on patents, smartphone sales slow, Toshiba to sell PC arm?, and more


“Madam, I’m afraid that following the Galactic Depression I can’t give you a mortgage no matter what clothes you wear.” Photo by leg0fenris on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

LVMH’s TAG Heuer to step up smartwatch production to meet demand » Bloomberg Business

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer will increase production of its smartwatch in coming months after receiving requests from retailers, agents and subsidiaries for some 100,000 timepieces, according to LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE’s watch chief.

TAG Heuer aims to make 2,000 pieces per week, up from a current 1,200, Jean-Claude Biver said in an e-mailed response to questions. Online sales of the Connected Watch will be suspended probably until May or June to give priority to physical stores, he said.

At $1,500 each, that’s revenue of $150m.
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The economics of Star Wars: Modeling and systems risk analysis suggest financial ruin for the Galactic Empire » Phys.org

Erika Ebsworth-Goold:

First, [Zachary] Feinstein [PhD, assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis] modelled the galactic economy by estimating the price of both Death Stars, using the most recently completed aircraft carrier in the American fleet as a measuring stick.

Comparing the price ($17.5bn) and size (100,000 metric tons of steel) of the USS Gerald Ford with an estimated size of both Death Stars, the price tag for the Empire was astounding: $193 quintillion for the first version; $419 quintillion for the second, though manageable in comparison to the $4.6 sextillion Galactic economy.

In the movies, both Death Stars are destroyed within a four-year time span, which would have been a staggering economic blow to the Imperial financial sector. To prevent a total financial collapse would require a bailout of at least 15%, and likely greater than 20%, of the entire economy’s resources.

“The most surprising result was how large the economic collapse could be,” Feinstein said. “Without a bailout, there was a non-negligible chance of over 30% drop in the size of the Galactic economy overnight—larger than the losses from the Great Depression over four years (from peak to trough).

“Episode 7: A New Quantitative Easing”.
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Samsung announces payment of $548m to Apple but reserves right to seek reimbursement » FOSS Patents

Florian Müller (who has been following all the zillions of patent rows forever):

on Thursday afternoon local California time, Apple and Samsung filed a joint case management statement with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, in which Samsung says it has “has made arrangements to complete payment to Apple.” It is now waiting for Apple’s original invoice, and if that payment arrives before the weekend by Korean time, it will send $548m to Apple by December 14.

So, approximately four months before the fifth anniversary of its original complaint, Apple will physically receive money from Samsung.

Not in nickels, either.
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Worldwide smartphone market will see the first single-digit growth year on record » IDC

According to a new forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC ) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker , 2015 will be the first full year of single-digit worldwide smartphone growth. IDC predicts worldwide smartphone shipments will grow 9.8% in 2015 to a total of 1.43bn units. IDC updated its previous forecast to reflect slowing growth in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan), Latin America, and Western Europe. The slower growth is expected to intensify slightly over the 2015-2019 forecast period and is largely attributed to lower shipment forecasts for Windows Phone as well as “alternative platforms” (phones running operating systems other than Android, iOS, and Windows Phone)…

…”With the smartphone market finally slowing to single-digit growth, maintaining momentum will depend on several factors,” said Ryan Reith , program director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “The main driver has been and will continue to be the success of low-cost smartphones in emerging markets. This, in turn, will depend on capturing value-oriented first-time smartphone buyers as well as replacement buyers. We believe that, in a number of high-growth markets, replacement cycles will be less than the typical two-year rate, mainly because the components that comprise a sub-$100 smartphone simply do not have the ability to survive two years. Offering products that appeal to both types of buyers at a suitable price point will be crucial to maintaining growth and vendor success.”

“As shipment volumes continue to slow across many markets, consumers will be enticed by both affordable high-value handsets as well as various financing options on pricier models,” said Anthony Scarsella , Research Manager with IDC’s Mobile Phones team.

Say it again: “the components that comprise a sub-$100 smartphone simply do not have the ability to survive two years”.
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Review: Microsoft’s Surface Book » iTnews

Juha Saarinen:

GeekBench 3 rated the single core processor score at 3480 and the multicore equivalent at 7165. This is quicker than the iPad Pro, which managed 3220 and 5442 in the single and multicore tests respectively, but a comparison between the two is difficult due to different processor architectures and Windows 10 and Apple iOS 9.1 being very dissimilar in how people use them: Windows 10 for instance allows full file system access, but iOS 9.1 doesn’t.  

You won’t be disappointed with the performance of the Surface Book in the vast majority of scenarios.  

You will, however, pay a premium for the tablet/laptop functionality: my AUD$4199 review unit is a good chunk’o’change. You could buy a top of the range 13-inch MacBook Pro with similar specs as the Surface Book and have change left for an iPad mini 4 as a companion tablet. 

Staying on the Microsoft side of the fence, the Surface Pro 4 top dog model has the same 512GB sized storage, 16GB RAM, is lighter, has a Core i7 processor but a slightly lower resolution PixelSense screen and no secondary graphics card – it costs $3580 with the Type keyboard cover, and runs Windows 10 just fine.

I thought Saarinen had transposed the numbers in that price, then saw the following paragraph. The prices translate to US$3,040 for that review unit and US$2,590. Clearly Microsoft doesn’t want to lose money on hardware any more. But at those prices, it’s really not going to sell in any appreciable numbers.
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Access denied » The Awl

John Herrman on the problem for various media that follows the way “access” to big stars, and politicians, and everyone, is being short-circuited by social media:

As did pundits with Trump coverage, [Kotaku’s Stephen] Totilo diagnoses the specific problem correctly, I think: Ubisoft and Bethesda were probably upset about Kotaku leaking or being critical of their products, and cut off access as a result. This is, in his words, “the price of games journalism.”

But the post’s secondary conclusions—that Kotaku rejects the idea of a games press that is a “servile arm of a corporate sales apparatus” and that this change in some way vindicates its prescient and recently implemented plan to “embed” reporters in games, rather than treating the games as objects to be reviewed—hint at a bigger worry. It’s not just that game companies might be mad at Kotaku, it’s that at the same time, they need it less than ever. What good is a complex website with a few million viewers spread across hundreds of games in a world where a company can just release a couple hours of gameplay footage of its own, or hand over a title to a YouTuber or a Twitch celebrity who’ll play nicely in front of millions of viewers?

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Transformation at Yahoo foiled by Marissa Mayer’s inability to bet the farm » The New York Times

Farhad Manjoo:

Yahoo’s fumbled foray into TV only highlights Ms. Mayer’s strategic failure. Instead of making a single big bet [of buying Netflix in 2012 when its share price was one-tenth its present level] that might have focused the company on something completely different and potentially groundbreaking, Ms. Mayer staked out a lot of small and midsize positions, rarely committing to anything early enough to make a difference. For Ms. Mayer, original programming was just one of dozens of products in a portfolio that remains too complex to understand.

So, too, were other projects that could have been at the center of Yahoo’s new mission. In the time that Ms. Mayer has been at the helm, Facebook has invested heavily in messaging apps that could define the future of communication. Google and Apple, anticipating the eventual decline of text-based search queries, have tried to create predictive, voice-based search engines that also catalog all the content inside apps. Pinterest is pioneering a new kind of online commerce, while Instagram, Snapchat and Vine are working on new ways to tell collective narratives through video.

Under Ms. Mayer, Yahoo has had a hand in many similar initiatives, but it hasn’t led in any of these areas.

“Inability” should probably have been “unwillingness” (Manjoo won’t have written the headline), but the analysis is spot-on.
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Japan’s Toshiba, Fujitsu in talks to merge loss-making PC units – sources » Yahoo Finance UK

Makiko Yamazaki and Reiji Murai of Reuters:

The emergence of tablets and other devices as well as fierce competition has pushed Japanese PC divisions into the red. At the same time, Toshiba is under pressure to restructure in the wake of a $1.3 billion accounting scandal while Fujitsu has seen PC profitability slip away as a weaker yen has inflated the cost of imported parts.

Combining PC operations would create a company with around 1.2 trillion yen ($9.8bn) in sales and give greater economies of scale that would help with procurement costs. But analysts see prospects of a return to past days of thriving sales as slim given that the two account for just 6 percent of global PC sales.

“It is uncertain whether or not the new integrated company could recover international competitiveness,” said Takeshi Tanaka, senior analyst at Mizuho Securities.

A combination would come on the heels of Sony Corp hiving off its PC business into unlisted Vaio Corp last year. Some domestic media reported that Vaio would also be part of the new venture but a spokeswoman for the company denied it was in talks with any firm about its PC operations.

That $9.8bn is an annualised revenue figure for both companies’ PC divisions – though there may be other products in there. (Their accounts don’t split out PC revenues directly.) For comparison, Asus and Acer each had annualised PC revenues of $8.5bn in 2014.
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Design: meet the internet — Figma Design » Medium

Dylan Field:

When we started working on Figma, we knew it was possible to build a fast and stable graphics tool in the browser, but we had no idea how hard it would be. From vector rendering to font layout to a million performance edge cases, getting here hasn’t been easy. Designers have high expectations for a tool they rely on every day! After dogfooding Figma internally for the past eighteen months and working closely with alpha customers, I’m confident we’ve reached this high bar.

While the technical achievement of building a vector based UI design tool in the browser is exciting, I’m even more excited by the collaborative possibilities we’re starting to unlock. Whether you’re sharing a design with a link, giving contextual feedback or setting shared brand colors for your team to use, Figma makes it easy to work with your team.

If you can do it in a browser it isn’t real work, of course.
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Wearable technology in the car » Canadian Automobile Association

Mark Richardson:

Jeffrey Macesin says he was changing the music playing through his car speakers when the Montreal police officer pulled him over and charged him with distracted driving.

The music was coming from his iPhone and wired into the car’s stereo, but the phone was tucked away in his bag, out of sight. In fact, he was using his Apple Watch to change the track, another potential new distraction in a world increasingly crowded with them.

Macesin says he was astonished by the ticket, which carries a $120 fine in Quebec and four demerit points.

“I understand (the officer’s) point of view,” he told CTV in May, “but the fact is, he thought I was using my phone and I wasn’t using my phone – I was using my watch. I tried explaining this to the guy and he just ignored me. I told him I’d see him in court.”

I sent Macesin numerous requests for a chat but he didn’t respond – maybe his lawyer told him to keep quiet. But he acknowledged in outtakes to CTV that his left hand was on the wheel – the same arm that wears his new Apple Watch – and he was tapping on the watch dial with his right hand to change tracks when the officer saw him from an overpass. The Apple Watch was connected wirelessly to his iPhone and controlling its functions.

The actual charge is that he “drove a road vehicle using a hand-held device equipped with a telephone function,” and his argument against it, he said, is that a watch is not “hand-held” – it’s worn on the wrist. “That’s where it gets really controversial,” he said to CTV. “Is it? Is it not? But I think this needs to be talked about.”

Similar to the Google Glass driving ticket case (which was dismissed)?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

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