Start up: P&G’s disruptive nature, duck searching, Watch reviews, Google’s new ad chief, and more


Disrupt this before Proctor & Gamble does. Photo by Premshree Pillai on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Why Procter & Gamble is more disruptive than you » Medium

Kavin Stewart:

So how does a company of this size [>$80bn in annual revenue] stay so disruptive? P&G is dealing with constantly changing consumer needs across many product lines (many of which are customized for local markets). Instead of relying on the personal experiences of their employees, P&G borrows a page from the playbook of anthropologists — they find relevant cultural groups to study and embed their employees where they live for a period of time, participating in their day to day lives to gather holistic data:

Soon after they’re hired, new employees of P&G undergo special cultural training. “They spend a week in a low-income neighbourhood, working in a bodega, a little shop,” [Jim] Stengel [global marketing officer of P&G] says. “He [the executive] puts an apron on. He works there. He talks to the shop owner. He talks to the people who come in. He becomes part of life.”

Product managers pay a lot of lip service to knowing the customer. But how many of them would spend a week living in Mexico and working at a bodega?

You can read a longer piece about Stengel at the FT. But the lesson that big companies can self-disrupt shouldn’t be ignored.


Apple sides with Microsoft in closely watched patent dispute with Google » GeekWire

Todd Bishop:

The case has already created some unusual alliances. Apple and T-Mobile are among the companies siding with Microsoft in the case, while Nokia and Qualcomm are seeking to overturn a lower court’s ruling that found in Microsoft’s favor.

After a 2013 trial in Seattle, Microsoft won a $14.5m jury verdict against Motorola based on a finding that Motorola breached its obligation to offer its standard-essential patents for video and wireless technologies on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, known in legal circles as “RAND” or “FRAND.”

The case is notable in part because U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle took the unusual step of setting a process for establishing royalties for standard essential patents.

Based on his process, Robart ruled in April 2013 that the Microsoft owed less than $1.8m a year for its use of Motorola’s patented video and wireless technologies in Windows, Xbox and other products. Motorola had originally sought a rate amounting to more than $4bn a year, plus $20bn in back payments.

Slightly more complex than it seems, because it could debase the idea of SEPs if they’re too low-priced. But Motorola was really trying too hard. (It tried the same against Apple and was rebuffed.)


Apple releases iOS 8.3 with emoji updates, wireless CarPlay, space bar UI fix » Mac Rumors

Ton of bugs squashed, apparently. Space bar very slightly elongated. Apple Watch icon/app can now be hidden/removed, apparently. And those all-important emoji fixes.


The ascension of Google’s Sridhar Ramaswamy » The Information

Amir Efrati has a real in-depth piece about Ramaswamy (who doesn’t seem to have cooperated with it) pointing to tensions with Susan Wojicki, head of YouTube ads):

Mr. Ramaswamy viewed himself as a protector of the search-history data. In the past, he and Mr. Page and others had stated their fear that it might feel creepy if people saw banner ads on non-Google sites based on things they had searched for on Google.com. Ms. Wojcicki had long pushed Google to stay current with ad-tech industry trends, pushing the boundaries of what people like Mr. Ramaswamy were comfortable with.

In the 2013 meetings, Mr. Ramaswamy also expressed hesitation about Google search data being used to target ads to people visiting YouTube, where the DoubleClick cookie was used, because it might be visible or “leak” to advertisers that used the cookie, which might lower its value. And he feared that Ms. Wojcicki and her team would use the search data to try to improve the ad quality of non-Google sites that are part of the display-advertising “network,” which also includes YouTube.

“Tell me what you really want to do,” Mr. Ramaswamy asked Ms. Wojcicki at one meeting, looking visibly annoyed, according to one participant. “You want to use search data on the network,” including non-Google sites. “Just say it.”


Battery life: Apple’s solving for x » Six Colors

Jason Snell:

Over the years I’ve said numerous times that when it comes to battery life on iOS devices, Apple appears to have a target battery life in mind and builds its hardware—a balance of power-saving software, hardware efficiency, and battery capacity—to hit that number.

It’s an observation born out of reading spec sheet after spec sheet over the years while writing reviews of new iPhones and iPads. Every year, people who are frustrated with their iPhones running out of juice before the end of the day hold out hope that the next iPhone will ameliorate the issue. In general, those people have not been satisfied.

And here’s the graph that proves his point – though note the pop at the end:


Samsung execs briefed over user experience » Korea Times

Kim Yoo-chul:

Yonsei University Professor Cho Kwang-soo was the speaker for this week’s session. The professor said the mantra of “one person, one device” has passed.

“Today, ‘one person, multi device’ has become the main trend, meaning that one person is now being connected to multiple devices. Without understanding about human nature, you can’t develop products that can meet consumer expectations,” Cho was quoted as saying.

Samsung needs to invest more for the development of wireless charging and new mobile operating systems that allow multiple devices to activate, the professor said.

In a briefing to local reporters, chief Samsung communications officer Lee Joon said the Apple iPhone was presented as the right device that has shown remarkable advancements in user-experience design.

Not the S6?


Surface tablet shipments expected to exceed 4 million units in 2015 » Digitimes

Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai:

Microsoft is expected to have a chance to ship over four million Surface tablets in 2015, up from two million units in 2014, because of its new Surface 3 and Surface Pro series products, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

Microsoft is reportedly planning to unveil its next-generation Surface Pro 4 tablet during the upcoming Build developer conference in April. The new Surface Pro tablet is estimated to enter mass production in June and will be released along with Windows 10 in the second half of 2015, the sources said.


Apple Watch reviews are in: an ‘elegant’, overpriced gadget ‘you don’t need’ » The Guardian

Sam Thielman:

The upshot seems to be that the battery life is good, unless you’re using it as a glorified FitBit (which it kind of is), that the application loading times are very long (which Apple has promised to fix in subsequent versions) and that it’s a lovely little device, unless of course you disagree, but it’s slow, not particularly intuitive and it’s probably worth waiting for the inevitable upgrade.

There’s also a fundamentalist split between the haute horologie posse and the tech world: in the former, consumers expect a flawless device for an unspeakable amount of money. In the latter, where inconveniences and flaws are ironed out by simply iterating the product again, a new chunk of tech is often praised for the novelty of what it aspires to do. “Unlike the Cartier I got for college graduation, the original Apple Watch’s beauty will soon fade,” [Joanna] Stern [at the WSJ] observes.


The ducks are always greener » Marco.org

Marco Arment:

My principles are only diverging further from Google’s over time, and I feel a bit defeated whenever I turn to them for anything anymore, so I attacked my primary dependence head-on: web search.

In my experience so far, DuckDuckGo’s search is good enough the vast majority of the time. Sometimes, its results are even better than Google’s, and they’re rarely much worse.

The number of people moving to DuckDuckGo is growing, very slowly; they’re finding that search is a commodity.


Start up: web design for 2015, Nexus 6’s long slipway, hacking journalism under threat?, Zoë Keating v YouTube redux, and more


In 2012 the Nexus 6 designers were expecting to deal with these to unlock the phone. Photo by kevin dooley on Flickr.

A selection of 7 links for you. Refrigerate before use. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The challenge for web designers in 2015 (or how to cheat at the future) » Memespring

Richard Pope:

The 7 years of the Apple App Store and the android equivalents have, in effect, been mass, micro funded experiments in UI design for small, touch sensitive devices with lots of sensors and outputs. They have generated winning patterns like:

Checkboxes replaced by switches
Check-ins
Edit without save button
Everything can be contextual, any bit of UI can disappear between pages
Everything has it’s own settings page
Floating buttons
Keeping primary navigation off canvas (hidden behind the page)
Minimal or zero page header (the context an old school page header / nav gives seems less important when you are holding the app in your hand.)
Multiple, focused apps for the same service
Offline by default
Overscroll to refresh
Reserving dropdown menus for actions on the current context
Search scoped to their current context (the app)
These are patterns that people use day in day out on facebook, Gmail and WhatsApp. These are the new normal, what people expect.

But with a few notable exceptions – eg the mobile versions of Wikipedia and Forecast – these are not patterns that are making their way on to the web.

So, here is the challenge for anyone designing and building for the web in 2015.

He also points out what you can do with HTML5 browsers now too. Worth considering.


Dennis Woodside on Motorola, Google and the future of Dropbox » Telegraph

Matt Warman spoke to Woodside, formerly chief executive at Motorola, and now chief operating officer at Dropbox:

the 6-inch Nexus 6, he can now admit, was stymied by just one of those big players [which he previously criticised for keeping prices high]. A dimple on the back that helps users hold the device should, in fact, have been rather more sophisticated. “The secret behind that is that it was supposed to be fingerprint recognition, and Apple bought the best supplier. So the second best supplier was the only one available to everyone else in the industry and they weren’t there yet,” says Woodside. Nonetheless, he adds, the addition of fingerprint recognition, “wouldn’t have made that big a difference.”

Here’s what’s interesting about this. Apple bought Authentec in mid-2012 (for $356m). The Nexus 6 was released in September 2014. Motorola’s development of that smartphone was so far in train that it didn’t have time to change the design of the back fascia from dimpled to flat.

Smartphones take two or more years to design and implement. Consider that: what comes out now was being worked on in early 2013.

Kudos to Woodside for admitting fingerprint recognition wouldn’t have made much difference. As it wasn’t being tied into a payment system, it would have been a gimmick – and those don’t add lasting value.


We should all step back from security journalism » Medium

Quinn Norton:

Part of Barrett Brown’s 63 month sentence, issued yesterday, is a 12 month sentence for a count of Accessory After the Fact, of the crime of hacking Stratfor. This sentence was enhanced by Brown’s posting a link in chat and possessing credit card data. This, and a broad pattern of misunderstanding and criminalizing normal behavior online, has lead me to feel that the situation for journalists and security researchers is murky and dangerous.

I am stepping back from reporting on hacking/databreach stories, and restricting my assistance to other journalists to advice. (But please, journalists, absolutely feel free to ask me for advice!) I can’t look at the specific data another journalist has, and I can’t pass it along to a security expert, without feeling like there’s risk to the journalists I work with, the security experts, and myself.

Brown’s sentence wasn’t quite as simple as “linking to stolen stuff”, but Norton’s concern is understandable – especially given the tendency of US law enforcement to go like a runaway train after hackers, and those defined as hackers, of all stripes.


Zoe Keating’s experience shows us why YouTube’s attitudes to its creators must change » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan weighs in on the Zoë Keating row linked here on Monday:

it is the Content ID clause that is most nefarious. Content UD is not an added value service YouTube provides to content owners, it is the obligation of a responsible partner designed to help content creators protect their intellectual property. YouTube implemented Content ID in response to rights owners, labels in particular, who were unhappy about their content being uploaded by users without their permission. YouTube’s willingness to use Content ID as a contractual lever betrays a blatant disregard for copyright.

Ben Thompson is much more straightforward: on Stratechery.com he analyses Keating’s position, and suggests – for her particular situation, as a niche player seeking the most eager fans – that she should tell YouTube to take a hike. Especially when you look at her income breakdown: 60,000 tracks (roughly) sold on iTunes generated $38,195, while 1.9m YouTube views (mostly of her music on other peoples’ videos) earned $1,248.

Would the iTunes sales have happened without the YouTube views? Quite possibly not – but using ContentID as a lever, as Mulligan says, is to aggressively deny her copyright.


Digital music sales on iTunes and beyond are now fading as fast as CDs. – The Atlantic

Derek Thompson has some shudder-making figures:

how about the hits? The top 1% of bands and solo artists now earn about 80% of all revenue from recorded music, as I wrote in “The Shazam Effect.”

But the market for streamed music is not so concentrated. The ten most-popular songs accounted for just shy of 2% of all streams in 2013 and 2014. That sounds crazy low. But there are 35m songs on Spotify and many more remixes and covers on SoundCloud and YouTube, and one in every 50 or 60 online plays is going to a top-ten song. With the entire universe of music available on virtual jukeboxes, the typical 3.5-hour listening session still includes at least one song selected from a top-ten playlist that accounts for .00003% of that universe. The long tail of digital music is the longest of tails. Still, there is a fat head at the front.


China buying more iPhones than US » FT.com

Analysts at UBS estimate that China accounted for 36% of iPhone shipments in the most recent quarter, compared with 24% for the US. During the same period last year, 29% of units were sold in the US and 22% were in China, UBS said.

Predictable enough, given the size of China, and the fact that the US is essentially saturated. The fact that two markets probably account for 60% of all iPhone shipments – around 36m phones in the quarter – is perhaps a concern for Apple. It’s much the same for Samsung: losing its lead in China has hurt it and left the US as its key market.

However, this rather gives the lie to those stories from September which said that Apple was washed up in China when smugglers had to cut prices of the iPhone 6 – ignoring the fact that the devices were going to go on sale officially in a few weeks. Nope, then the problem was that

Four years ago, the iPhone 4 was a status symbol, with the black market booming before the product was officially introduced. Today, the iPhone is simply one option among many, as local companies like Xiaomi and Meizu Technology rival Apple in terms of coolness while charging less than half the price.


Demographics of key social networking platforms » Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

Tons of demographic data (including age, ethnicity, gender, education, income and location) about the online over-18s in the US:
• 71% use Facebook (more women than men, strong in 18-29);
• 23% use Twitter (men strongly growing, skews towards degree-qualified);
• 26% use Instagram (53% of 18-29s; also strong among Hispanics and African-Americans);
• 28% use Pinterest (up from 21% in August 2013; 3:1 women:men, strongly skewed to white)
• 28% use LinkedIn, strongly up among women since 2013, but now equal across sexes; skews strongly to university education

The whole study is fascinating: Facebook growth is slowing down, but it’s still “home base”, and used most daily.