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A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.
PC shipments beat expectations in Q2 2016 as US market returned to growth while other regions continued to decline • IDC
»”The PC market continues to struggle as we wait for replacements to accelerate, along with some return of spending from phones, tablets, and other IT,” said Loren Loverde, vice president, Worldwide PC Trackers & Forecasting. “Our long-term outlook remains cautions. However, the strong results in the U.S. offer a glimpse of what the market could look like with pockets of growth and a stronger overall environment. It’s not dramatic growth, but it could push the market into positive territory slightly ahead of our forecast for 2018.”
“As expected, the start of the peak education buying season helped generate large Chromebook shipment volumes in the U.S.,” stated Linn Huang, research director, Devices & Displays. “A somewhat unexpected boost came from intensified inventory pull-in as cautious channel players, who had been working to pare down inventory over the last several quarters, opened up inventory constraints a bit. This was likely a one-time shipment boost to bring aggregate inventory levels back to market equilibrium. The larger story remains whether an early wave of enterprise transition to Windows 10 could help close out a 2016 that is increasingly looking stronger in the U.S.”
The US market was 17.03m units including those Chromebooks, according to IDC, while Gartner – which doesn’t count Chromebooks (don’t ask me why), puts the US market at 15.22m. Suggests that Chromebooks were 1.81m – just behind Apple’s figure of 1.87m (Gartner) or 1.91m (IDC).
If Chromebooks are over 10% of the US market, that’s beginning to be important. (By that calculation, Chromebook shipments in 2Q15 were 1.2m in a total market of 16.2m. Strong growth.)
The Windows PC market, meanwhile, isn’t healing.
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»We’ve been building a better ad blocker that will give you more fine-grained control over your online experience. In early tests running 20+ tabs in Chrome across the top 50 news websites, it outperforms the most popular ad blocker (which itself saves just 6% browser memory vs. no blocking). It led to less tracking (66% fewer URLs loaded) and also cuts down on bandwidth use tremendously: 39% less memory, 52% less data.
Sign up for the beta.
»Following the Beats acquisition, I see Apple striving to take back the music narrative with the goal of eventually owning the entire music industry. There are four distinct steps to Apple’s strategy.
• Pivot into paid music streaming.
• Leverage a strong balance sheet to control the music narrative.
• Remove oxygen from the music streaming industry by grabbing revenue share.
• Create an environment for independent artist sustainability.
Although each step becomes progressively more difficult, ultimately, the four are interrelated…
…Any deal for Tidal would not be about getting access to the service’s 4.2 million subscribers. Instead, Apple would be interesting in gaining access to Jay Z and friends. Losing out on Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Kanye West album exclusives over the past year irked Apple. While Apple Music eventually got access to most of the exclusive content, the amount of attention and breathing room that Tidal received was obviously not something Apple enjoyed. Acquiring Tidal and bringing Jay Z on board Apple Music will be a way for Apple to make Apple Music more attractive and capable of getting additional revenue share.
»[European Commissioner for Justice Vera] Jourová’s nice distinction between bulk data and mass surveillance didn’t impress campaign group European Digital Rights (EDRI), nor Max Schrems, the Austrian whose complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner about Facebook’s handling of his data ultimately led to the CJEU ruling.
“In Annex VI of the Privacy Shield decision, the U.S. government explicitly confirms that U.S. services conduct ‘bulk collection’ by using data from U.S. companies. While the U.S. highlights what it called limitations (for example for only six broad purposes), the mere possibility of such mass surveillance is contrary to the CJEU judgement,” Schrems said via email.
EDRi Executive Director Joe McNamee doesn’t give Privacy Shield long: “We now have to wait until the Court again rules that the deal is illegal and then, maybe, the EU and U.S. can negotiate a credible arrangement that actually respects the law, engenders trust and protects our fundamental rights,” he said.
»You may have heard us saying that there are over 500,000 routes in our OS Maps service…well, we’ve been analysing all of that data to look at which areas you most like to #GetOutside and explore. We’ve compiled a list of the 20 most popular grid squares in Britain, using 10 years of public routing data compiled in OS Maps and its predecessors.
Britain’s most popular grid squares – 18 are in the Lake District!
We suspected that the Lake District would feature highly, but were amazed to discover that eighteen of the top twenty most popular grid squares to create a route fall in the heart of the Lake District National Park, close to popular tourist locations Keswick, Ambleside, Grasmere, Helvellyn and Scafell Pike. The other two top twenty places can be found in Snowdonia and the Yorkshire Dales.
»In analyzing any new medium, it pays to figure out the various pieces of the delivery value chain and which ones will have the ability to take whatever share they desire of the overall margin available. These will be the one that become the valuable players in that market.
Virtual reality’s value chain is going to be dominated by content creation. Somewhat like the movies and more like computer gaming. The cost of creating VR content will be high so content creation will economically dominate distribution and discovery. The high cost of creating quality content will mean that less quality content is created, allowing discovery through typical marketing/PR and word of mouth (like how movies are discovered now.) Because recouping the cost of high-quality content will require large audiences, VR headsets will need to be cheap. They may at first be subsidized, but will eventually be required by the content makers to be high-volume, low-margin hardware. Expensive, and thus scarce, content will tend towards the lowest common denominator (like console computer games) so risk can be managed through a portfolio approach (like music and movies.) This suggests that VR content will eventually be dominated by a few very large companies, and probably mainly companies that enter from adjacent industries (my bet would be on EA.)
There may be other uses for VR other than the mass media/broadcast model I describe, such as in business. But because the largest piece of the market will drive revenue in the rest of the value chain down, any other value chain that avoids the chockpoint but uses the other pieces will have very low barriers to entry because its suppliers will have no bargaining power. For instance, the creation of training films for businesses avoided the content creation chokepoint in the consumer media business and benefited from the lower cost of movie-making equipment and talent. But because these had been made plentiful by the mainstream industry, there was no way to build a big business in corporate film-making. Something similar will happen in VR.
Augmented reality is completely different.
»Starting with the US, in the three months ending May 2016, Samsung accounted for 37% of smartphone sales and Apple 29%. However, sales of their respective flagship models reveal a much closer competition, with the Galaxy S7/S7 Edge accounting for 16% of sales and the iPhone 6s/6s Plus at 14.6%. What’s more, when we look at where these purchases are coming from, just 5% of Samsung purchases came from those switching away from Apple, while 14% of Apple purchasers came from those switching away from Samsung. In both cases, the majority of sales came from customers repurchasing and upgrading within their preferred brand. Among those intending to change devices within the next year, 88% of current Apple users and 86% of current Samsung users intend to stay loyal.
Great Britain reveals a closer race between the two brands, who together account for nearly three of every four phones sold, each with 36% of sales. Here we see the iPhone 6s and 5s as the two best-selling devices in the three months ending May 2016, followed by the Samsung Galaxy J5, and the iPhone SE.
Interestingly, in both the US and UK markets, Samsung and Apple claim the entire top 10 list of smartphones sold. Only when expanding our view to the top 20 do we begin to see brands such as LG (in the US) and Sony (in the UK) make an appearance. These markets have also seen smartphone sales flatten or drop in the latest year, as fewer new consumers are available and consumers are upgrading at a slower pace.
That doesn’t sound like “so yesterday”. More like “so current”. But in China it’s different:
»Unlike in Western markets where brand loyalty is high and fewer consumers defect for other brands, in China, loyalty remains low. For current top brand Huawei, just 19% of consumers were repurchasing the brand, while 24% switched over from Samsung. For Apple, 42% were repeat purchasers, and 25% came from Samsung. Xiaomi hasn’t captured as many former Samsung consumers as the other two (9%), primarily getting consumers from repeat purchases (45%); 12% of Xiaomi’s new customers switched over from Huawei.
»With the help of F1 star Lewis Hamilton the group is offering some $50,000 as a grand prize. The second stage of the competition is asking contestants to come up with a unique VR and AR experience, but not one that simply simulates driving one of the state of the art racing cars.
Instead, the experience must offer a solution to help the team working on the track-side at a race and those working remotely from the team’s UK-based factory. As it stands, engineers develop a race strategy, review component changes and fix issues with audio communications and video feeds between the track and factory. Contestants will be tasked with refining this process with the help of VR and AR during mid-season tests and more. The aim is to help the two teams involved operate much more efficiently together.
»Open the app and, pretty much wherever you are, you could be alerted that there is a Pokémon in the vicinity. The other day, I had some time to spare at the San Francisco airport, so I started looking. An animated version of Google Maps popped up on my screen, along with indications that there might be Pokémon around. The more you move around, the more creatures you find. I found only one, but I got a good workout. More important, the game made me happy; it had served a real function.
The technology to make this happen is something we haven’t seen applied before in gaming. Whereas a typical massively multiplayer online game is decentralized among different servers and players, Niantic wanted to create a single source for its game. This requires extraordinary computing power and a fundamental rethinking of how gaming software is written. If a system is fragmented, all users might not be getting new information at the exact same time. Financial-trading systems also run on a single source, because everyone needs to know the correct price of a stock at the same time. “Since everything is changing constantly, this is more like a real-time financial system,” Hanke said, pointing out that the usage on Niantic’s system was “a lot, even by Google standards.”
Hanke has long been interested in mapping and the interplay of our physical and digital worlds. He was the founder of Keyhole, a startup that was acquired by Google and renamed Google Earth. During our conversation, he pointed out that Google Earth was made possible by a convergence of digital photography, broadband networks, mapping, and the small near-Earth satellites that emerged around that time. Augmented reality, he said, is on a similar track—powerful smartphones, faster and more robust networks, a new generation of computer infrastructure, and data collection are all converging.
It’s the last point that’s most important: we’re hitting a new inflection point because of the confluence of all these things becoming available. Pokemon Go (indifferent though I am to the game itself) looks like an iPhone moment for AR: many have done it before, but none in a way that grabs such huge attention as to make everything before look poorly worked out.
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»On the convenience front, Samsung has made a huge change – you no longer need to pick up your paired smartphone to install recommended apps on the watch. The same extends to a few watch faces as well.
Over in the world clock app for the Gear S2, Samsung has switched to a flatter design. The clock face now turns white during the day and goes dark at nighttime. Clicking on one of the displayed times will get you sunrise and sunset information as well.
In the weather app (powered by Accuweather), Samsung has added UV index information. It doesn’t give you tips on what you should do based on the UX levels, but at least you can know if you need to put on some sunscreen before going out.
Would like to know how it does the “no phone required” trick: does it have a 3G embedded SIM? Samsung beat Apple in round 1 of the usability battle for smart watches – the rotating bezel is a clever idea – but we’ll have to see how the double-tap for apps works on watchOS 3. (I haven’t tried it yet.)
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»The Apple inquiry focuses on whether the low-cost tax structure it has benefited from in Ireland amounts to illegal government aid to the company. Some analysts have estimated that its tax arrangements have saved the Apple billions of dollars. The company has denied any wrong-doing, but has previously agreed to pay back taxes in Italy.
Even as the European Apple inquiry appears to be heading to a conclusion, a Google investigation is getting dragged out. European antitrust regulators postponed the deadline by which the company would have to respond to charges that it has abused its control over the Android operating system.
The company now has until September 7 to respond to the allegations, which focus on the company’s alleged efforts to force phone manufacturers who use Android operating system and want access to the Google Play store to also install other Google apps, including its search app and Chrome browser.
Previously, Google was supposed to file a response by July 27.
You may be wondering what happened to the search antitrust investigation. So is everyone else.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified