Start Up: first-time app millionaires, avoiding another MH-17, who owns England?, pricing broadband, and more


It probably got your heart rate correct, but the calories could be iffy. Photo by unexxx 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.

Apple’s App Store is creating twice as many million-dollar publishers as Google Play • Sensortower

Randy Nelson of Sensortower:

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When it comes to building a successful business, Sensor Tower’s Store Intelligence data reveals that more app publishers are achieving an important milestone on Apple’s App Store than on Google Play. Based on our analysis of in-app revenue—not inclusive of advertising revenue—nearly double the number of publishers made their first $1m in annual revenue last year on the U.S. App Store compared to Google Play. In all, 66 publishers met or surpassed this benchmark figure on Apple’s store in 2016, which was 1.7 times more than the 39 that managed the same degree of success on Google’s platform.

What’s more, as you can see in the chart above, the number of publishers who had their first $1m or greater year on the US App Store in 2016 nearly doubled over 2015, when 34 surpassed that mark in terms of annual US revenue.

While it still trails behind the App Store by this measure, Google Play grew its number of equivalent publishers on its US store considerably more than Apple’s platform in 2016, by nearly 2.8 times from 14 in 2015. This is a promising figure for Google, which, when combined with the impressive year-over-year revenue growth we’ve witnessed from its platform over the past few quarters, signals that developers are enjoying a growing measure of success monetizing on Google Play.

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That “not inclusive of advertising revenue” could be significant. Note too that these are first-time million-dollar earners (47% on iOS and 75% on Android are games). This goes against the general narrative that you can’t make any money from apps. But this isn’t a lot of organisations – 105, if there’s no overlap.
link to this extract


MH17: a darker truth • Medium

Mark Zee:

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This will be uncomfortable reading, but [MH-17 being shot down over Ukraine] was a preventable tragedy.

As industry experts, we’ve comforted ourselves knowing that “Nobody considered that civil aircraft, at cruising altitude, were at risk” (Dutch Safety Board report). When fingers were pointed at Malaysia Airlines for overflying a war zone, we were quick to tell the public “Not fair. Everybody else did as well”.

We were all apparently operating under the same misguided reassurance that this was a war going on underneath the airways, and that cruising at 33,000 over the top of it would be just fine. As an airline pilot at the time, I did the same as everyone else using the eastern Ukraine routes, and monitored the conflict beneath us with interest on each flight, but without concern.
But what if we could have known — what if the risk information was actually there, but for some reason we weren’t seeing it?

Well, it was.

International aviation uses a simple system to tell pilots essential flight information: NOTAMS. Notices to Airmen. An average 3 hour flight will have 20 pages of them, and they look like this:

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It is, as he clearly explains, a case where complexity has run away from comprehensibility – with potentially disastrous results.
link to this extract


China’s Lenovo to reboot after losing PC crown to HP • WSJ

Kathy Chu:

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Lenovo has axed at least 2,000 U.S. jobs since buying Motorola. The company continues to lose talent because some employees are unsure about the company’s direction, said a handful of insiders, who declined to be named because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly.

A Lenovo spokesman said that the company’s attrition rates are in line with the industry and Lenovo has been adding new talent, signs that “morale has improved and that Motorola continues to be a place where technology-loving employees want to work.”

Kitty Fok, IDC’s managing director for China, cautioned against reading too much into Lenovo losing its No. 1 position in the PC market to HP. The first calendar quarter is traditionally Lenovo’s weakest quarter, so this slide may only be temporary, Ms. Fok said.

Meanwhile, even though Lenovo’s smartphone business is still not profitable, its global shipments are stabilizing, according to Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston. Lenovo holds only a 1% market share in China, but is growing rapidly in India, where its market share has risen to 9% from 7% in the past year, according to the research firm.

“For Lenovo at the moment, China is a dark cloud, the U.S. is a gray cloud, while India is a sunny day,” said Mr. Mawston.

The analyst said that if Lenovo can cut costs further and continue to expand in India, its smartphone business could return to profitability by 2018.

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Since Lenovo acquired Motorola in October 2014, smartphone profitability has always been just six months away. Meanwhile that division has had eight straight quarters of operating losses.
link to this extract


May 2012: Post-traumatic life expectancy of phone vendors • Asymco

Horace Dediu, back in May 2012:

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RIM [since renamed to BlackBerry] has just entered what I call the Post-traumatic period of a phone maker’s life. This period is defined as beginning with a loss-making quarter and ending  with the company’s exit from the business. These post-traumatic periods were visualized first here and the pattern was first discussed about a year ago here.

I’ve updated the chart with the current data and added the bar chart below to illustrated the “post-traumatic life expectancy” for the companies shown. Companies still operating are shown with bars without color while companies that have exited are shown with solid color bars.

The pattern may be that companies either have short post-trauma lives of about two to three years or relatively long post-trauma lives lasting 4 to 5 years. What determines this life expectancy and how long do RIM, Nokia and LG have?

There is precious little data, but perhaps one hypothesis I could offer could be that the bigger the commitment to the industry (in terms of having no fall-back options) the longer the post-traumatic period lasts. In other words, as there is no easy way out, the fight lasts longer.

This can also be interpreted using Porter’s “barriers to exit” force analysis where companies which can liquidate a division see it as a low cost of exit whereas companies that need to restructure (usually more than once) and then seek either a buyout or rescue may interpret exit as a very costly endeavor.

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Nokia and RIM both exited; Motorola was acquired and sold and acquired; Sony bought out Ericsson; the stubborn one, in that respect, is LG, which first fell into loss at Q4 2009, and is still going (with losses).
link to this extract


Land ownership map • Who owns England?

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Who owns land is one of England’s most closely-guarded secrets. This map is a first attempt to display major landowners in England, combining public data with Freedom of Information requests. To follow the investigation and help us fill in the gaps, visit the Who Owns England? blog.

The map also displays some data for Wales and Scotland, where landowners’ data includes this; our project is focused on England. Investigation by Guy Shrubsole, map by Anna Powell-Smith.

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But of course Powell-Smith would be involved – she does great mapping/data stuff. “Overseas companies” own nearly a quarter of a million acres, in some very odd places.
link to this extract


China censored Google’s AlphaGo match against world’s best Go player • The Guardian

Alex Hern:

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DeepMind’s board game-playing AI, AlphaGo, may well have won its first game against the Go world number one, Ke Jie, from China – but but most Chinese viewers could not watch the match live.

The Chinese government had issued a censorship notice to broadcasters and online publishers, warning them against livestreaming Tuesday’s game, according to China Digital Times, a site that regularly posts such notices in the name of transparency.

“Regarding the go match between Ke Jie and AlphaGo, no website, without exception, may carry a livestream,” the notice read. “If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it.” The ban did not just cover video footage: outlets were banned from covering the match live in any way, including text commentary, social media, or push notifications.

It appears the government was concerned that 19-year-old Ke, who lost the first of three scheduled games by a razor-thin half-point margin, might have suffered a more damaging defeat that would hurt the national pride of a state which holds Go close to its heart.

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Bet they found out anyway. AlphaGo won the second match as well, even though Ke played the first 50 moves “perfectly” – in AlphaGo’s judgement, at least. I expect playing against it is something like Kasparov found against Deep Blue: you can expect a human to err under pressure, but there’s no emotion on the other side of the board, which pushes that liability of mistiming a move back onto you, the human.
link to this extract


Bitcoin surges 11% to all-time high above $2,700 • CNBC

Evelyn Cheng:

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At Thursday’s record, Bitcoin has now gained more than 45% since last Thursday and more than 180% for the year so far.

“There is no question that we are in the middle of a price frenzy,” said Brian Kelly of BKCM LLC and a CNBC contributor, in a note to clients Thursday. “There will be a correction and it could be severe, but it’s unclear if that correction will start from current prices of $2700 or from some place much higher.”

Kelly manages a hedge fund focused on digital currencies.

The globally, 24-hour traded asset swept past $2,400 and $2,500 on Wednesday Eastern Time, following a late Tuesday announcement that brought some resolution to a heated debate about the future development of the digital currency. The Digital Currency Group said in an online Medium post that 83% of bitcoin miners supported a “Bitcoin Scaling Agreement” for a specific technological upgrade.

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This is all quite bonkers; it seems untethered by any rational explanation. So maybe we just treat it as an irrational speculative product.
link to this extract


Fitness trackers accurately measure heart rate but not calories burned • Stanford Medicine

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Millions of people wear some kind of wristband activity tracker and use the device to monitor their own exercise and health, often sharing the data with their physician. But is the data accurate?

Such people can take heart in knowing that if the device measures heart rate, it’s probably doing a good job, a team of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine reports. But if it measures energy expenditure, it’s probably off by a significant amount.

An evaluation of seven devices in a diverse group of 60 volunteers showed that six of the devices measured heart rate with an error rate of less than 5%. The team evaluated the Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, PulseOn and the Samsung Gear S2. Some devices were more accurate than others, and factors such as skin color and body mass index affected the measurements.

In contrast, none of the seven devices measured energy expenditure accurately, the study found. Even the most accurate device was off by an average of 27%. And the least accurate was off by 93%.

“People are basing life decisions on the data provided by these devices,” said Euan Ashley, DPhil, FRCP, professor of cardiovascular medicine, of genetics and of biomedical data science at Stanford. But consumer devices aren’t held to the same standards as medical-grade devices, and it’s hard for doctors to know what to make of heart-rate data and other data from a patient’s wearable device, he said.

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Here’s the graphic on energy expenditure (which was measured using oxygen consumption). Fitbit Surge did best, followed by Microsoft Band, and then Apple Watch – though the researchers say overall “of the devices tested, the Apple Watch had the most favorable error profile while the Samsung Gear S2 had the least favorable error profile”.

Why the variability? The researchers note that “10,000 steps have been observed to represent between 400 kilocalories and 800 kilocalories depending on a person’s height and weight”. That’s a lot of variation in how our bodies burn energy.
link to this extract


Gatwick Airport launches indoor navigation system to help passengers find their way • The Next Web

Matthew Hughes:

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Serving the London region, Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second busiest airport, after London Heathrow. As you’d expect, it’s a gargantuan place, and getting around its two massive terminals can be a nightmare.

To ameliorate this, Gatwick has taken the unusual step of installing 2,000 bluetooth-powered beacons that tell passengers where they are in the airport’s two terminals.

The beacons are the product of a collaboration with London startup Pointr, and are accurate to three meters — so pretty damn accurate.

The first incarnation of the system shows travelers where they are on a digital map, with their location visualized as a blue dot. Gatwick eventually intends to introduce an augmented reality system that guides users with turn-by-turn directions, using real-world visual data.

At first, Gatwick plans to integrate this network of beacons into its own app, and is in talks with airlines about sharing access to the data.

Conceivably, this could be used to tell passengers that they’re running late, or help the airline to figure out whether to offload luggage if a late passenger is far away.

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Your basic augmented reality (AR) implementation.
link to this extract


New Penn research assesses financial viability of municipal fiber networks • Penn Law

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Using industry standard financial analysis tools on five years of official data, the study finds that 11 out of the 20 fiber networks assessed do not generate enough cash to cover their current operating costs and only two out of the 20 are on track to recover their total project costs during their 30-40 years of expected useful life. Key findings include:

• 11 of 20 projects studied are cash-flow negative, many substantially so.
• 5 of the 9 cash-flow positive projects are generating returns that are so small that it would take more than a century to recover project costs.
• 2 of the 9 cash-flow positive projects would have a recovery period of 61-65 years, beyond the expected useful life of a fiber network.
• Only 2 of the 20 projects studied earned enough to expect to cover their project costs during the useful life of the networks, one of which is an outlier that serves an industrial city with few residents.
• The analysis also models the returns for a hypothetical project, finding it would take over 100 years to recover expected project costs. 

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That’s all reasonable enough within itself (this is only municipally-funded, ie debt-funded, networks, not Google Fiber et al). But I wonder if it’s not too shallow in that the full report ignores positive externalities that might arise. Many of these are in low-density population areas: it could be that having high-speed internet preserves the population base (which is important in other ways to a municipality), or even serves to attract businesses and others to the area, which would create a positive feedback effect. In the short term, high-speed broadband (especially if there’s a delta compared to a neighbouring area) can even shore up property prices. So it’s not just about the obvious bottom line. (The report’s author told me by email that he hoped the findings so far would feed into Ofcom assessments; and that a further study comparing similar areas which did and didn’t go for superfast broadband could be worth doing.)
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

One thought on “Start Up: first-time app millionaires, avoiding another MH-17, who owns England?, pricing broadband, and more

  1. The UK “who owns what” map is fantastic. Some of those properties, like a lot around Tunbridge Wells in Kent, seem to be owned by corporations in Jersey and Guernsey simply to dodge tax. So although its implied they are foreign owned, they probably aren’t (immediately goes into a diatribe over how there’s one rule for the common folk and another for the well off). It would be interesting to see if you could pick out the tax havens from the rest to see who really owns what (or trace the ownership of the tax haven corporations to their controlling partners).

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