Start Up: Snapchat’s story trouble, Asus’s dwindling tablets, Apple without Netflix, and more

This looks the ideal place for our new server! Photo by happy via 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.

Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all your friends • Medium

Owen Williams:


The addictiveness and popularity of Snapchat’s Stories feature continue to this day, but the company finds itself at something of a crossroads: Facebook’s cloned the entire thing, and it’s doing it better than Snapchat ever could, and innovating at a faster clip.

When Instagram Stories launched well over a year ago, I thought it was cute, but couldn’t understand why I’d ever jump from Snapchat. Simply put, like you, I was hooked on snapping everything as it was. I loved sharing photos into my story, and rarely send pictures directly to others, because it’s a fun way to passively share what I’ve been up to over the course of the day.

Throughout each day, friends browse my story and fire back a chat message if they like it, and I do the same. Before I switched, I was probably checking Snapchat once an hour to see if anything new had happened. Like you, I was addicted to the service — more than a disturbing amount.

But I’ve noticed over recent months a shift: less people are using Snapchat around me, and I’ve stopped entirely. Photos in my stories that regularly got over 5,000 views a day, now get less than half of that — and only a handful of the people I actively followed along with are even sharing anymore.

We’ve all moved to Instagram Stories.


Troubling ahead of the IPO.
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Want an energy-efficient data center? Build it underwater • IEEE Spectrum

Ben Cutler, Spencer Fowers, Jeffrey Kramer and Eric Peterson:


When Sean James, who works on data-center technology for Microsoft, suggested that the company put server farms entirely underwater, his colleagues were a bit dubious. But for James, who had earlier served on board a submarine for the U.S. Navy, submerging whole data centers beneath the waves made perfect sense.

This tactic, he argued, would not only limit the cost of cooling the machines—an enormous expense for many data-center operators—but it could also reduce construction costs, make it easier to power these facilities with renewable energy, and even improve their performance.

Together with Todd Rawlings, another Microsoft engineer, James circulated an internal white paper promoting the concept. It explained how building data centers underwater could help Microsoft and other cloud providers manage today’s phenomenal growth in an environmentally sustainable way.


Utterly brilliant thinking. How do you change motherboards, you wonder? You don’t – you build self-contained pods and dump them when they die.
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Asustek adjusting tablet operations • Digitimes

Monica Chen and Adam Hwang:


Asustek Computer is adjusting its tablet operations by decreasing the number of models developed, focusing shipments on fewer overseas markets, and transferring a portion of its about 1,000 employees specifically working on tablets to its VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality), and smartphone business units, according to company CEO Jerry Shen.

Asustek began the adjustments in mid-2016 and expects to finish it in mid-2017, Shen said.

Asustek’s global tablet shipments fell from 12.1m units in 2013 to 9.4m units in 2014, 5.9m units in 2015 and 3.3m units in 2016.


“Adjusting” seems a roundabout way to say “abandoning”. Remember the Nexus 7 in 2012 and 2013? Those were Asus.

The reality: there’s no profit in Android tablets any more unless you’re Samsung, and even then it’s iffy.
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Report: Apple might be revamping its iPad lineup in March • Engadget

Andrew Tarantola:


Japanese website Macotakara reports that Apple’s upcoming March event will see the release of a new line of iPad Pros as well as 128GB iPhone SE and a new bright red color choice for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The company is expected to unveil iPad Pros in 7.9in, 9.7in, 10.5in, and 12.9in models.

That could mean that Apple is replacing the iPad mini 4 with the 7.9in Pro, refreshing the 9.7in and 12.9in models. and introducing a whole new model, the 10.5. However there have been some conflicting reports as to whether Apple really will do that. Both Barclays and KGI Securities failed to mention the 7.9in model in their predictions so it could be that the 10.5in will actually replace the mini 4. As DigiTimes points out, the 10.5’s screen width would be the same as the iPad mini’s screen height and, with that rumored edge-to-edge display, would fit in the same overall footprint.

Still, Macotakara is saying that the 7.9in will use the Smart Connector, a 12MP iSight camera, True Tone flash and display, just like its larger counterparts. The 10.5 and 12.9in versions will reportedly run on A10X chips while the smaller models will use the A9X.


This is going to be quite a big parade of iPads. What I’m wondering is: whatever happened to the big enterprise boost to iPad sales that we were led to believe would follow from the Apple-IBM deal? Or just generally? It seems like enterprises are sitting on their hands when it comes to tablets.

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Apple doesn’t need to buy Netflix • Above Avalon

Former Wall Street analyst Neil Cybart:


Upon closer examination, calls that Apple should buy Netflix are misplaced as they do not take into account how Apple actually views the world. Many of the arguments assume Apple’s current hardware-centric revenue model is in trouble. In addition, each of the three primary reasons cited for why Apple should buy Netflix contain significant gaps in logic and rationale. 

• Revenue. Apple doesn’t, and shouldn’t, use M&A to directly acquire revenue streams. Apple didn’t buy Beats for its revenue-generating headphone business. Instead, Apple bought Jimmy Iovine’s music vision. A headphones business just happened to be attached to that vision. If M&A is used as a tool to grow revenue, Apple’s effort to place the product above everything else is put into jeopardy. This logic explains why Apple doesn’t acquire the large companies often paraded in the press as possible acquisition targets.

• A different business model. Apple has already shown the willingness to embrace change when it comes to selling product. This is a company that pivoted from a very successful paid music download model for iTunes to paid subscriptions with Apple Music. With more than 20 million paying subscribers for Apple Music after only 17 months, the streaming service is already 20% the size of Netflix – and this is with little to no video content.

• Original content. There is no evidence to suggest Apple wants to own large portfolios of video content. Instead, the company is still focused on being a content distributor with its iOS platform. In addition, rather than buying legacy content portfolios (Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, etc.) or original content initiatives found at tech companies masquerading as media companies (Netflix, Amazon), Apple is more interested in buying great ideas. This was very much on display with Apple’s approach to music streaming. 


The idea of buying a huge company with a different culture for tons of money makes no sense to me either. It’s dilutive, in all sorts of ways.

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Verizon will pay $350m less for Yahoo • The New York Times

Vindu Goel:


Faced with unknown costs related to two huge data breaches, Yahoo and Verizon Communications announced Tuesday that they had agreed to shave $350m from the price that Verizon would pay to buy Yahoo’s core internet businesses.

The two companies said they would also share liabilities related to the breaches, which occurred in 2013 and 2014 but were only disclosed last year after the deal was announced.

The revised agreement, now valued at $4.48bn, paves the way for the deal to proceed to a shareholder vote as early as April, although securities regulators are still assessing how Yahoo disclosed information about the breaches to investors. Yahoo, which is winding down its own investigation of the breaches, will share more details about the incidents and their impact in the next few weeks when it makes required regulatory filings.


Do you think it would have cost them $350m to prevent the hacks in the first place?
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U.S. iPhone users spent an average of $40 on apps in 2016 • Sensor Tower


US iPhone users spent more on premium apps and in-app purchases (IAPs) per device last year than in 2015—an average of $40 per iPhone, versus $35 the year before—according to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence data. While mobile games still dominated consumer spending in 2016, big gains by other categories (such as Entertainment, which saw per-device spend double) helped grow overall revenue per iPhone considerably.

In this report, we’ll look at the leading categories by per-device spending for 2016, including their year-over-year growth, along with average app installs by category.

More than 80% of U.S. App Store revenue in 2016 was generated by games, which was reflected on the device level by the overwhelming portion of the $40 total they comprised. US iPhone owners spent an average of $27 per device on games last year, up from $25 in 2015.

While this is an impressive figure, and further proof that monetization of mobile games continues to improve, the real standout of our findings was the year-over-year growth of Entertainment category spending, which was up by 130 percent, from $1.00 in 2015 to $2.30 in 2016. This category includes some of the U.S. App Store’s historically highest grossing apps, such as HBO NOW, Hulu, and Netflix.


The average app installs data is quite eye-opening too.
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How Fujifilm survived the digital age with an unexpected makeover – Channel NewsAsia

Desmond Ng:


The company thought it was ahead of the curve but the digital age hadn’t truly arrived yet. Incredibly, the photo film market continued to grow. By 2001, two-thirds of the company’s profits still came from photo film.

Fujifilm abandoned its new business ventures, despite having pioneered the digital camera a decade earlier. The company felt that the printed picture would survive and invested millions in the Instax Mini, an analogue camera that allowed one to take a picture and print it in seconds. It sold over a million units in 2002.

But then, the long-awaited digital age finally arrived in 2003 – and hit the company hard.

Sales of photo film plunged by a third in less than a year. In just six months, shops went from processing almost 5,000 rolls of film a day, to fewer than 1,000.

A market that had accounted for two-thirds of the company’s profits had disappeared in the blink of an eye.  Mr Komori said: “At first I thought that colour film wouldn’t disappear easily, but digital stole it all away in an instant.”

To add to the company’s woes, another disruptive technology emerged – the mobile phone. This revolutionised digital photography. Digital photographs were cheaper and speedier, and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter became the new pioneers of photography as smartphone sales skyrocketed.

Drastic changes were needed at Fujifilm.


An infrequently told business story of survival against the odds.
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4chan: the skeleton key to the rise of Trump • Medium

Dale Beran, in a looong read:


Yiannopoulos’ rambling “arguments” against feminism, are not arguments at all, as much as pep talks, ways of making these dis-empowered men feel empowered by discarding the symbol of their failure — women. As an openly gay man, he argues that men no longer need be interested in women, that they can and should walk away from the female sex en masse. For example in a long incoherent set of bullet points on feminism he states:


The rise of feminism has fatally coincided with the rise of video games, internet porn, and, sometime in the near future, sex robots. With all these options available, and the growing perils of real-world relationships, men are simply walking away.


Here Yiannopoulos has inverted what has actually happened to make his audience feel good. Men who have retreated to video games and internet porn can now characterize their helpless flight as an empowered conscious choice to reject women for something else. In other words, it justifies a lifestyle which in their hearts they previously regarded helplessly as a mark of shame.

Gamergate at last (unlike Habbo Hotel, Scientology, Paypal, or Occupy Wall Street) was a “raid” that mattered, that wasn’t just a fun lark to pass the time or a winking joke. Here was another issue (besides “let me do what I want on the internet all the time”) that spoke to the bulk of 4chan users.
Anon was going to get “SJW”s (ie. empowered women) out of their safe spaces — video games — the place from which they retreated from women by indulging in fantasies in which they were in control (that is to say, ones which demeaned women).

However, their efforts failed, not so much for lack of trying (though there’s that, too) but because the campaign itself was a fantasy.


Loath though I am to include any link that mentions Yiannopoulos – attention is his oxygen – this is an excellent distillation, based on the author’s own experiences, of what went on. Gamergate has as many “causes” as members, perhaps, but some explanations work better than others.
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‘So much of it is a con’: Confessions of a veteran ad tech developer • Digiday

Ross Benes spoke to an anonymous ad-tech person:


How do you feel about the state of advertising?
So much of it is a con. I have been in this forever, for almost 20 years, and I do know what is going on. And I know that no one calls bullshit on bullshit.

Are you implying that people don’t want to address major problems?
Yes. To give you an example, I was in a meeting and said, “Everything is cookie-based, what happens when you delete the cookies?” The reaction I got was worse than if someone had farted in an elevator.

Is there anything in particular that irritates you?
People buy traffic through ad networks and they run full-page prompts. On these full-page prompts, underneath the window you’re on, they pop another window and it may or may not be visible. That window has an autoplay video player in it with the sound turned off. And that is one of the simplest way to rack up traffic.

You sound skeptical of traffic statistics.
If you take the amount of traffic that is out there, and you look at the amount of traffic that is not parsed to Google, there is just not enough inventory in the world to back up all these impressions that publishers say they’re getting.


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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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