Start up: Apple’s phone expectations, Amazon’s giant backdoor, mobile adblocking grows, and more


Virtual reality attracts interest, but where’s the storytelling? Photo by Nick Habgood on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Not attributable to tributaries. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Apple 1Q16 Earnings Preview » Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:

Investor anxiety heading into Apple’s upcoming earnings report is at a multi-year high. Fears surrounding slowing iPhone 6s and 6s Plus sales have morphed into broad questions about the iPhone’s long-term viability. While investors are looking for answers that won’t likely be provided this week, management has a very clear goal with its 1Q16 earnings report and conference call: set expectations for 2016.

Cybart reckons in the just-gone quarter to December (Apple’s first fiscal quarter of its financial year) Apple has sold around 77m iPhones, 18m iPads and 5.7m Macs. He also gives gauges for what is low and high. Apple announces its earnings on Tuesday evening (and LG will have published its own by the time you read this).
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IAB chief blasts Adblock Plus as an ‘immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes’ » Adweek

Christopher Heine:

When Adblock Plus said it had been “disinvited” from this week’s Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Leadership Summit, it raised virtual eyebrows across the Web. Wasting little time and mincing no words, the IAB’s leader kicked off the event by firing back.

“Now, you may be aware of a kerfuffle that began about ten days ago, when an unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes at a for-profit German company called AdBlock-Plus took to the digisphere to complain over and over that IAB had ‘disinvited’ them to this convention,” CEO Rothenberg told the audience in his opening keynote Monday. “That, of course, is as much a lie as the others they routinely try to tell the world…”

…Eyeo GmbH-owned Adblock Plus’ ticket was pulled, Rothenberg said, “for the simple reason that they are stealing from publishers, subverting freedom of the press, operating a business model predicated on censorship of content, and ultimately forcing consumers to pay more money for less — and less diverse — information. AdBlock Plus claims it wants to engage in dialogue. But its form of dialogue is an incessant monologue.”

Well, they had an invitation (which they had to pay for, like everyone else), and then it was withdrawn. Clearly, no Christmas cards between these two. (I’m going to go to Adblock Plus’s meeting in London in a week or so.)
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37% of mobile users are blocking ads » Global Web Index

Jason Mander:

According to GWI’s latest wave of research, it’s a significant 37% of mobile users who say they’ve blocked ads on their mobile within the last month. That’s a pretty sizable number if you consider that these tools have only relatively recently come to the attention of consumers. It also shows just how keen users are to improve their mobile experience and to prevent their data allowances and battery lives from being drained.

No less striking is that another 42% of users say they haven’t blocked ads so far but are interested in doing so in the future. That means almost 80% of the mobile audience could be engaging with blockers before too long – a stat which underlines why this is a trend which is unlikely to burn out any time soon.

Big numbers. People have responded by saying that they’re not seeing those figures, but equally adblockers often block Google Analytics too – so adblocking users are ghosts; you’d have to check against server logs to see what’s really happening. GWI has a large sample base, weighted towards the US and UK, though it doesn’t say how many were sampled for this particular survey.
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‘iPhone 5se’ likely to have faster A9/M9 chips & always-on Siri, come in 16/64GB capacities » 9to5Mac

Mark Gurman:

Last week we reported that Apple is preparing to announce a new 4-inch iPhone dubbed the “iPhone 5se” as soon as mid-March. Our report noted that the new iPhone is essentially an upgraded iPhone 5s with a faster processor, Apple Pay, new camera features, and curved glass edges instead of sharp chamfers. Now, we have a few additional details about this new iPhone model. First, we are told that there are different prototypes of the device floating around Apple’s campus: some with the A8 and M8 chips that we discussed in our previous report, and some with the iPhone 6s’s A9 and M9 processors. We’ve now learned that the iPhone 5se is more likely to include variants of the A9 and M9 chips instead of the A8 and M8 lines…

Because the iPhone 7 will include a faster chip potentially known as the A10 processor, Apple likely does not want its new 4-inch iPhone to fall two processor generations behind in just six months.

Gurman has an excellent track record on this stuff. So you can pretty much take this as being what’s on the shipping box. Next question: why has Apple decided to renew the 4-inch phone?
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Why VR “storytelling” does not currently work. And can it ever work? » Medium

Mike Cartel (who has experience in creating VR experiences):

Storytelling is a RETROSPECTIVE thing. It always has been. People didn’t sit around the campfire telling stories in the timeframes that they actually occurred. And i’m not aware of realtime books. Linear narrative mechanisms have evolved to break down the constraints of time and emotive viewpoint.
But herein lies the VR Storytelling anachronism.

The hardware has raced forward at an incredible speed. It’s barely three years between Oculus Rift DK1, and Oculus Rift CV1, but the change is extraordinary. But with this charge forward brings a storytelling problem. The new Rift, HTC Vive and PSVR headsets behave and look close to real life. Screen door and latency has been nearly obliterated. The hardware is challenging our brains to differentiate with real life.

Hardware mimics real life, and real life timing. Whilst current non-gaming VR content relies upon existing forms of linear narrative. These things do not co-exist. Yet. But will they ever? Can they ever?

Like him, I recall a time when we were assured that CD-ROMs would usher in an age of “choose your own storyline” storytelling. Instead, we got video games – while storytelling has remained much the same.
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The muscular dystrophy patient and the Olympic medallist with the same genetic disorder » ProPublica

David Epstein, who wrote a book about genes and sport, and was then contacted out of the blue:

It seemed absolutely crazy. The idea that an Iowa housewife, equipped with the cutting-edge medical tool known as Google Images, would make a medical discovery about a pro athlete who sees doctors and athletic trainers as part of her job?

I consulted Harvard geneticist Robert C. Green to get his thoughts, in part because he has done important work on how people react to receiving information about their genes. Green was open to discussing it, but he recalls a justifiable concern that had nothing to do with science: “Empowering a relationship between these two women could end badly,” he says. “People go off the deep end when they are relating to celebrities they think they have a connection to.” I was skeptical too. Maybe she was a nutjob.

I had no idea yet that Jill, just by investigating her own family, had learned more about the manifestations of her disease than nearly anyone in the world, and that she could see things that no one else could.

Open this in another tab, and make the time to read it today – you’ll need about 15 minutes. It’s stunning. And (for any criticism of Google’s tax affairs below) it’s also testament to the power of Google Images and search engines and the power of having the world’s scientific information available to everyone. Jill extended two peoples’ lives, including her father’s (and probably her own), because she could access information easily.
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Two Y-axes » Kieran Healy

Healy takes to task those who would plot using a single x-axis and two sets of data using two y-axes:

When you’re just looking at data, though, it’s enough to bear in mind that it’s already much too easy to present spurious—or at least overconfident—correlations. Scatterplots do the job just fine, as you can see. (Just don’t pay much attention to the sudden clumpy vertical bits in the plot.) Even here, we can make our associations look steeper or flatter by fiddling with the aspect ratio. Two y-axes give you an extra degree of freedom to mess about that, in almost all cases, you really shouldn’t take. Guidelines like this won’t stop people who want to fool you with charts from trying, of course. But they might help you not fool yourself.

Read and take to heart, graph-plotters. (Including Dr Drang.)
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Google obeys tax laws, and gives us awesome services for free. Why complain? » Spectator Blogs

Fraser Nelson:

If Google hoped for some good PR in offering £130 million to settle UK tax claims dating back to the Labour years, it was a miscalculation: Labour regards the offer as “derisory” and the BBC is leading its news bulletins the better to sock it to its rival. Why did Google bother? It has run up against the standard anti-business narrative: that the social worth of businesses can be measured only by how much cash they give to the government. In fact, Google provides its services to millions of Britons (worth at least £11bn, by some estimates) at no cost at all: this is its contribution to society. As for its contribution to the government’s coffers, Google has – from the offset – been following the rules. And for this, it has been lambasted.

I don’t quite buy Google as a “rival” to the BBC. The £11bn (one-off?) calculation comes from an analysis released by – surprise! – Google, compiled by Deloitte. But it’s reasonable – jobs created, work done, and so on.

But at the same time, that rests on the argument that Google’s services aren’t fungible; that if it didn’t exist, that there wouldn’t be other companies offering platforms for digital advertising (leading to the need for SEO), for creating content, for writing smartphone apps and so on. I suspect Yahoo, Microsoft and others wouldn’t necessarily agree.
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That Google tax deal » Waiting for Godot

Jolyon Maugham:

Well, here’s what Google UK Limited does.

Now, that doesn’t sound much like selling advertising. And it isn’t. Its business is selling services to other Google companies. And it will charge a modest uplift on its costs – and that modest uplift will comprise its profits.

A consequence of this is that Google UK Limited’s accounting profits will never bear any relationship to the profits Google Inc chooses to report to its shareholders as having been generated in the UK. Those profits generated in the UK will never show up in Google UK Limited’s accounts and be subject to UK tax. Google UK Limited is never going to be hugely profitable.

Indeed if Google Ireland Limited and Google Inc were to choose to buy those services from some other jurisdiction, Google wouldn’t generate any accounting profits here at all.

The accounting profits they generate here they generate because they choose to buy services from here. They choose to make profits here.

We’re all being inculcated into the winding roads of multinational tax planning.
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Asustek, Gigabyte to ship 4.2-4.5m own-brand motherboards each in 1Q16 » Digitimes

Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai:

With demand from the PC DIY market continuing to decline, global motherboard shipments dropped from 69m units in 2014 to 54m units in 2015, while shipments in China also slumped from 28m units to 26m.

As for second-tier players, excepting ASRock which was still profitable in 2015, Micro-Star International (MSI), Biostar, Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) and China-based Colorful all saw their profits from the motherboard business in 2015 drop sharply from 2014.

As for 2016, global motherboard shipments are expected to drop below 50m units, while Asustek and Gigabyte will both be able to maintain their shipments at around 17m units.

Note that point about the DIY market shrinking. (Will VR change that?) Remarkable that two companies have over 60% of the whole market.
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Amazon’s customer service backdoor » Medium

Eric Springer:

As a security conscious user who follows the best practices like: using unique passwords, 2FA, only using a secure computer and being able to spot phishing attacks from a mile away, I would have thought my accounts and details would be be pretty safe? Wrong.

Because when someone has gone after me, it all goes for nothing. That’s because most systems come with a backdoor, customer support. In this post I’m going to focus on the most grievous offender: Amazon.com

Amazon.com was one of the few companies I trusted with my personal information. After all, I shop there, I used to work as a Software Developer and I am a heavy AWS user (raking up well over $600/month)

Truly horrendous story. Moral: don’t use a publicly-visible email for your Amazon account. (Now go and change it.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

One thought on “Start up: Apple’s phone expectations, Amazon’s giant backdoor, mobile adblocking grows, and more

  1. Thanks, Charles, for some great links.

    Yes the Pro Publica article is fascinating. Of course Jill Viles made herself an expert by studying academic papers for years – rather than merely googling stuff – but certainly the connection with Priscilla Lopes-Schliep may not have happened without an easily accessible database of pictures. So Google, Bing, Yahoo et al certainly add value to public life.

    On a counter point, I wonder if anyone has tried to estimate the cost to the NHS (and health systems elsewhere) of unnecessary appointments to see a doctor after ‘googling’ symptoms? The cost/benefit maybe quite neutral!

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