Start up: Facebook v Brazil, HTC Vive sells out, unsticky Cardboard, iPhone 7 rumours, and more

Everyone assumed it would be a hit, after it was a hit. Insiders like Tony Fadell remember it differently. Photo by janeko on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Not legal in Kansas. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter (and now on Medium too). Observations and links welcome.

Facebook executive arrested in Brazil for refusal to provide user info » New York Post

AP:

»Police in Sao Paulo have arrested Facebook’s most senior executive in Latin America in the latest clash between Brazilian authorities and the social media company its refusal to provide private information about its users to law enforcement.

A Tuesday news release says that Facebook’s vice president for Latin America, Diego Dzodan, was arrested on an order from a judge in the northeastern state of Sergipe. Dzodan is accused of ignoring a judicial order in a secret investigation involving organized crime and drug trafficking.

The decision by Judge Marcel Montalvao follows the company’s refusal to surrender user information from the WhatsApp messaging service, an application Facebook bought in 2014.

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link to this extract


HTC sold 15,000 Vive VR headsets in less than 10 minutes » Mashable

Raymond Wong:

»Doing the math based on the $800 U.S. price (the Vive will cost £689 in the UK and €899 in Europe), HTC made $12m off those 15,000 headsets. HTC may be struggling to sell smartphones, but it already looks like its gamble on virtual reality may have been worth it.

HTC’s early success is good news for the budding VR industry, which is projected to worth $70bn by 2020, according to TrendForce, a technology market research company.

Facebook-owned Oculus VR will launch its highly anticipated Oculus Rift on March 28 to the first pre-orderers. At $600, the Rift costs $200 less than the Vive. The Rift, however, doesn’t come with the Vive’s wand-like VR controllers and ships instead with an Xbox One controller.

«

Could have priced them higher. Honestly. Money left on the table. However…
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Google’s VR app not hooking users » The Information

Reed Albergotti and Peter Schulz:

»7Park tracks app usage for more than two million Android smartphone users in the U.S. Its data show that 0.42% of those, or about 8,400 people, were monthly active users of Cardboard as of Jan. 16, up from 0.06% in September, or 1,200 people. The proportion who were daily active users was only 0.02% in January; it had fluctuated between zero and 0.01% in the preceding months. The spike in monthly active users likely reflects the New York Times’ mailing of Cardboard devices to its print subscribers last November, which coincided with the Times’ launch of its virtual reality app.

Byrne Hobart, an analyst for 7Park, suggested that the apparent “failure to keep users engaged” reflects a lack of good content made for the technology. The Cardboard app has only a little content, including demonstrations such as a VR version of Google Earth with cities like Marseille and Chicago and landmarks like Bryce Canyon. Another demo, called “Tour Guide,” is essentially 3D photos inside the Palace of Versaille narrated by a tour guide—not the kind of thing that best showcases the technology.

«

Google Cardboard has between 5m and 10m downloads on Google Play – respectable numbers for an early-stage tech.
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OS X blacklist accidentally disables Ethernet in OS X 10.11 » Ars Technica UK

Andrew Cunnigham:

»The culprit is an update for System Integrity Protection, the El Capitan feature that protects some system folders and keeps unsigned or incorrectly signed kernel extensions (or “kexts,” roughly analogous to drivers in a Windows or Linux machine) from loading. In this case, the kext used to enable the Ethernet port on Macs was blacklisted—if you restarted your Mac after applying this update but before your computer had a chance to download the quickly issued fix, you’ll find yourself without an Ethernet connection.

This blacklist isn’t updated through the Mac App Store like purchased apps or OS X itself. Rather, it uses a silent auto-update mechanism that executes in the background even if you haven’t enabled normal automatic updates. Apple uses a similar mechanism to update OS X’s anti-malware blacklist, a rudimentary security feature introduced in 2011 following the high-profile Mac Defender malware infection and occasionally used to push other critical software updates.

«

Apple Support Article to help those who are reading this… offline? Fixing this seems like a real chicken-and-egg problem for those who only used Ethernet. If a Mac desktop user you care for has been offline for some days, visit them with the download on a USB stick.
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Do we really even need an app drawer in Android? » AndroidAuthority

Kris Carlon on rumours that the next version of Android will remove the “app drawer”:

»By removing the app drawer, Android would not only look more like iOS, it would also add more steps to launching apps you don’t have on your main home screen. It seems reasonable that widgets, shortcuts and so on will still function as we know them to, but using them would actually add steps to the app launching experience rather than making everything simpler.

Think about it: you’d have Google Now to the left, your primary home screen next, perhaps a calendar and email widget on the next two screens and then several pages of app icons. So rather than a single tap on the home screen to access your full apps list you’d have to swipe several times to get to it. Adding a primary home screen shortcut to the start of your app list would simply reproduce what the app drawer shortcut already does.

To Android users this setup feels terribly slow and laborious. The argument for doing it this way seems to be that it is simpler and more intuitive than the app drawer because the two-layer system is confusing and people don’t know where to find the apps they install or how to remove them. Perhaps this is true for novice users or those new to the platform, but considering Android has had an app drawer for forever, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.

Anyone that has ever had any contact with an Android phone would understand it has an app drawer in exactly the same way as Android users understand that iOS doesn’t or that automatic vehicle owners are aware of manual transmissions, even if they’ve never driven one.

«

I don’t think Carlon has ever watched someone who isn’t fully familiar with Android try to navigate their phone: they struggle with the way that apps are hidden away in the drawer, and don’t follow how you change the default layout. I know, because I have watched them. (Try it on your commute.)
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Latest iPhone 7 rumor suggests thinner 6-like body, flush camera, stereo speakers, thinner Lightning port » 9to5Mac

Chance Miller:

»Corroborating a report from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo from last September, Macotakara reports this evening that the iPhone 7 is expected to be 1mm thinner than the iPhone 6s. Furthermore, the report adds that the device will visually be similar to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, retaining the same metal design with the same height and width, and will not be waterproof.

For comparison’s sake, the iPhone 6s is currently 7.1mm thin, so if this report comes to fruition, the iPhone 7 will be just 6.1mm thick. The iPod touch is also 6.1mm thick.

As has been rumored in the past, though, the report notes that the camera bump on the back will now be flush with the device’s casing and that the device will not feature a 3.5mm headphone jack in an effort to reduce the thickness of the device.

Next, the blog reports that the iPhone 7 will feature stereo speakers, making it the first iPhone to do so. In the past, all iPhone models have only featured a single mono speaker, so the addition of a second speaker should greatly improve the device’s sound quality.

«

The rumours are rolling off the production line, right on schedule, six months ahead of the actual unveil.
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Nest CEO Tony Fadell on the iPod, iPhone, and the importance of shipping products » VentureBeat

Truly fascinating, long interview with Fadell by Kevin Surace; Fadell points out that with hindsight everyone thinks the iPod was fated to succeed – at a time when “The company had $500 million in debt, $250 million in the bank, and less than 1% US market share. There was nothing left to sell”:

»Everybody in the futurephone world was trying to crank out as many phones as they could every year. Samsung had a different model of phone every day. Each carrier had its own set of rules. It wasn’t about the consumer. It was about what you could sell to the carriers. The Motorola ROKR E1 was poorly designed. There was no way we could work with another company and get the right experience.

We started out by making an iPod phone. It was an iPod with a phone module inside it. It looked like an iPod, but it had a phone, and you would select numbers through the same interface and so on. But if you wanted to dial a number it was like using a rotary dial. It sucked. We knew three months in that it wasn’t going to work. Steve said, “Keep trying!” We tried everything. We tried for seven or eight months to get that thing to work. Couldn’t do it. We added more buttons and it just became this gangly thing.

That was the iPod phone. At the same time, we were trying to build a touchscreen Mac. We were also trying to do better video on an iPod. We had a real screen, but people didn’t like to watch videos on their iPod. So how can we get a really big screen, but not have the click wheel involved? Instantly, we knew we needed a virtual interface on top of a phone. We wanted to make this touch Mac, and we knew the iPod phone wouldn’t work, but we knew we needed to make a phone.

Steve’s like, “Come over here!” I didn’t know about this at the time, but he showed me a ping-pong table that was the first multi-touch screen. It was a ping-pong-sized table. It had a projector of a Mac on top of it, and you could interact with it. He said, “We’re going to put that in an iPod!” “Steve, it’s the size of a ping-pong table!”

In the end it was clear that we needed to build a phone, and we needed to build a touch screen company on top of it.

«

This doesn’t quite gel with the alternative tales of Fadell building an “iPod phone” and Scott Forstall building a “touchscreen Mac phone”, but it’s a great read from start to finish.
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Fifth of UK adults block ads » warc.com

»Ad blocking in the UK is growing at the rate of roughly one percentage point a month, as new figures reveal 22% of UK adults are currently using ad blocking software, up from 18% in October.

The data comes from the latest wave of the Internet Advertising Bureau UK’s Ad Blocking Report, conducted online among 2,049 adults by YouGov.

The highest level of ad blocking occurred amongst 18-24 year olds (47%), while 45-54 year olds were the least likely to block ads (16%), along with women (14%).

Publishers are adopting a variety of strategies to address the problem, and it appears that, in the UK at least, a straightforward request to turn off can frequently have the desired effect.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents who had downloaded ad blocking software said they received a notice from a website asking them to turn it off. And over half (54%) said that, in certain situations, they would switch off their ad blocker if a website said it was the only way to access content. And this figure rose to nearly three-quarters (73%) of 18-24 year olds.

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One percentage point per month. Wonder what it’s like on mobile.
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Xiaomi – All mod cons. » Radio Free Mobile

Richard Windsor, noting that the Xiaomi Mi5 has had 16.8m registrations to buy – unsurprising, given that it’s a bargain-basement price for a high-spec phone, and that there had been nothing comparable from Xiaomi for a year:

»the company has said that it has passed 170m users but there is no sign of monetising them. One of the main reasons for this is that a large proportion of its users are not using a Xiaomi device. [I] calculate that at the end of Q4 15A, that there were 103.2m users with a Xiaomi device leaving 66.8m that have used one of the 69 or more mods that are available to put MIUI on a non-Xiaomi device. I believe that the vast majority of these ‘mods’ are outside of China where Xiaomi has no ecosystem and instead pushes Google.

This means that the effective user base from which it could potentially make money is actually around 100m. Xiaomi has chosen the hardware route of monetisation but unlike Apple, the ecosystem is clearly not exclusive to the device. Consequently, should Xiaomi’s ecosystem become popular, it will be unable to put its prices up because users will be able to download a ‘mod’ and get the ecosystem for free.

This is why I think that Xiaomi will have to either shut down the ‘mods’ or start charging for them to begin the monetisation of its ecosystem. This is still a long way in the future, and the Xiaomi ecosystem still needs an awful lot of work before it gets to the point where it can begin to make money for its owner.

«

He values Xiaomi at $5.9bn (compared to the $45bn of its last funding round). You have to say his argument is tough to refute.

But if Xiaomi can satisfy those orders for the Mi5, it would rival Samsung for the best-selling premium Android phone.
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Report: Huawei, Vivo and Xiaomi to release phones using Samsung’s Dual Edge display » AndroidAuthority

Rob Triggs:

»News sources from China report that Vivo is preparing to launch its XPlay5 handset on March 1st, which will feature Samsung’s Dual Edge display. The phone is also said to be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and 6GB of RAM, so it’s clearly aimed at the very high-end of the market. A picture of the handset (below) was recently uploaded to Weibo and clearly shows off a curved display. However, the image was not uploaded by an official Vivo account or by a company representative, so we should treat it as unconfirmed.

Industry insiders are also suggesting that Huawei and Xiaomi are preparing to release handsets packing the same display technology from Samsung, although there don’t appear to be any other rumors to hint at potential specifications or release dates. We initially heard that Huawei may be purchasing curved displays from Samsung back in September last year.

«

Is this Samsung’s display division undercutting any advantage that its handset division might have had from the curved edge display? Or has it decided that volume is more important than a USP? Or has Samsung management decided that curved edges aren’t really a USP? The latter would be odd, given that demand for the “curved edge” design was reputedly higher than for the plain version last year.

Odd too, since Display’s operating margins are about 5%, against 9% for mobile. Maybe this is a way to improve the former’s margins.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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