Posts tagged Just

Why Apple Just Wasn’t Feeling It For The TV Set

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal, we now know that Apple really was working on its own television set before it ditched the idea over a year ago. The project got shelved, Gene Munster has said his mea culpa, and we can all move on.

It puts a different perspective on the tech rumors of today: Even when they’re right they can be wrong. In other words, speculation about an upcoming product might be spot on, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll ever see the light of day. Apple Car, anyone?

The Simple Reasons Apple Bailed

In retrospect, it’s not difficult to see why Apple canned its idea for a TV set to call its own. As one commenter at 9to5Mac put it:

As expensive as they are, TV screens are a commodity. Selling different sizes and features would be a nightmare, and so would lugging one into the Genius Bar for warranty support.

In other words, televisions are bulky pieces of equipment that tend to last a lot longer than the rapidly obsolete electronics you’d expect in a smart TV. Margins are slim and making a profit is hard, as LG, Sony, Samsung, Philips and others have all discovered in recent years. Buyers wouldn’t be upgrading very often, and Apple wouldn’t make much money when they did.

These are all points that have been repeatedly made down the years. No doubt they played some part in Apple’s thinking.

But Wait, There’s More

But aside from the practicalities of TV engineering or the realities of the marketplace, Apple’s decision also suggests it just couldn’t figure out a way to put its own distinctive mark on the screens that fill our dens and bedrooms.

By contrast, Apple had no problem green-lighting its smartwatch. Whether the Apple Watch goes on to be a roaring success or not, it’s certainly distinctive, premium and disruptive. Could any television set Apple might have come up with have made the same impact? It’s doubtful.

MacBook Pros, iMacs, iPhones—these bits of kit are compelling and iconic in a way that you can’t really envisage a television set being, even with the best efforts of Sir Jony Ive.

Ultra-high resolutions are already here, as are super-slim bezels, curved screens, integrated apps, gesture control and lots more. How would Apple’s version have stood out? Or stood out enough to make the endeavour worthwhile?

Indeed, it’s the things that would have made an Apple TV set truly compelling that are being built into the Apple TV box that it actually does sell: smart home control, live TV streaming, Siri integration, access to the App Store, and so on.

The Real Apple TV

It’s perhaps no coincidence that the real Apple TV is getting a lot more love and attention since the theoretical Apple TV bit the dust. Maybe Tim Cook and his team realized that all the best parts of their new project could be added to the one they had under their noses all along.

And look at the competition: Google, Microsoft, Amazon… these companies are all building boxes to go under your living room TV, without worrying about the actual sets themselves.

Ultimately, a TV is simply a window into something else, plus a small package of extra smarts, and Apple has realized putting those smarts in a separate puck-shaped black box gives it the flexibility it needs to do something that can really make an impact.

Lead image courtesy of Apple

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Google Just Put Its Search Design Chief In Charge Of Cardboard VR

Google’s whimsically named Cardboard virtual-reality effort has a new chief, and possibly a new vision. Jon Wiley, who formerly headed up design for the company’s search division and—among other things—came up with the Cards user interface on Google’s mobile platforms, will be taking over a division that started off a little more than a joke a year ago.

No one’s laughing now. Wiley’s new position, first reported by Fast Company on Monday, could signify Google’s growing commitment to virtual reality as way more than a cardboard curiosity.

Google’s Growing Cardboard Commitment

Google’s decision to shuffle Wiley out of search and into Cardboard occurred sometime in mid-May, although neither the company nor Wiley himself have said much about it. Fast Company says Google confirmed Wiley’s new position, and I’ve asked the company to elaborate on the move. Even without hard details, it’s not difficult to imagine that Google has big plans for its DIY virtual reality headset.

Jon Wiley, formerly the lead designer of Google Search, now principal designer of Google Cardboard and VR (image via Twitter)

Back in April, Google launched “Works with Google Cardboard,” a new certification system for hardware and software makers to help ensure their own cardboard VR designs are consistent with Google’s ideas. Even more telling, the Wall Street Journal reported in March that Google had plans to build a new, virtual reality-focused operating system based on Android, presumably in concert with its Cardboard initiative. Those two details show Google’s interest in pushing Cardboard into new, more ambitious territory; Wiley’s addition all but confirms it.

As Fast Company points out, Wiley’s big claim to fame is the creation of Google Now Cards, which anticipate mobile users’ needs based on their search history and Google services. If you have flight details sent to your Gmail inbox, a Google Now card will appear on your Android phone or Android Wear device to tell you whether or not it’s on time. Likewise if you search a particular movie you’re curious about, Google Now will often hook you up with nearby showtimes.

Google Now’s Card UI was Wiley’s brainchild

It’s not clear how Wiley’s experience with Cards can translate to Google’s virtual reality plans, but there’s no question that Cardboard (and most other virtual reality platforms) could use a more user-friendly interface. Cards reduce the distance between a user and relevant information, so it stands to reason that Wiley’s task for VR might be similar.

Meanwhile, the VR field is growing more crowded every day. Samsung recently released its second iteration of the Gear VR, this one made for the hugely popular Galaxy S6 handset. HTC and Valve’s headset, the Vive, is set to launch later this year, while Sony and Facebook-owned Oculus have plans to launch their own headsets in 2016. Whatever Wiley’s going to do with Cardboard, he’ll have his work cut out for him.

Lead photo by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite; Google Cardboard images courtesy of Google; Jon Wiley image from Twitter

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AWS To Data-Center Worshippers: You’ll Be Back, Just Like Zynga

As if Zynga didn’t have enough problems. 

The once dominant game company has been in free fall for years, struggling to make the industry shift from desktop to mobile. One reason for that struggle, it turns out, is the company’s misguided attempts to scale out its own infrastructure, as Zynga CEO Mark Pincus admitted in the company’s latest earnings call

Sure, some companies—like Etsy—find it advantageous to roll their own data centers. But for most companies struggling to embrace agile, scalable development, the public cloud is the way to go.

Zynga’s Core Issue

To be clear, Zynga’s problems are deeper than its infrastructure. While a company’s hardware and software matters, it’s secondary to actually having products that people want to buy. 

Zynga made its mark with games designed to be played on desktop-powered Facebook. But even as Facebook shifted to mobile, Zynga kept spamming Facebook friends with Farmville requests on their desktops. 

Zynga’s primary problem, then, was an inability to embrace mobile.

As the company tried to make the shift to mobile, however, its infrastructure did it no favors. As Amazon Web Services data science chief Matt Wood told me in an interview:

Those that go out and buy expensive infrastructure find that the problem scope and domain shift really quickly. By the time they get around to answering the original question, the business has moved on.

While Wood was speaking of solving tough data science problems, the same principles apply to IT infrastructure, generally. When you build out a data center to solve particular problems, you’re stuck with infrastructure that may not suit itself to new business challenges that arise.

Like, in Zynga’s case, mobile.

Paying Someone Else To Scale

Which is why it’s not surprising to see Zynga do an about-face on its decision to abandon AWS for its own data centers. As Pincus told investors:

When we think about scale, we[‘ve] got to think about where we want to get scale. And we want to get scale in places like data and analytics where we need to be world class in order to arm our game teams to deliver the most value for our players. There’s a lot of places that are not strategic for us to have scale and we think not appropriate like running our own data centers. We’re going to let Amazon do that. So what we’re really trying to do here is have scale where it can give us a real leverage across our product teams and not maintain scale that we really can’t justify.

Or, as the WSJ’s Robert McMillan writes:

When Zynga built the data centers, it bet that it could operate them more cheaply than paying Amazon. But squeezing better price performance out of a city block of servers turned out to be a tricky proposition.

As mentioned, Etsy and others have gone against the cloud tide and seem to be making it work. Etsy CTO Kellan Elliott-McCrea told me that the online marketplace has discovered “very real cost savings” and higher utilization by running in its own data centers.

But Etsy is the exception, not the rule. 

The “rule” looks increasingly like AWS, wherein we pay public cloud providers to ensure elasticity and scale at a reasonable price. As mobile, Big Data, and other trends roil existing enterprises, savvy companies will build agility into their IT infrastructure, allowing them to easily experiment with new apps and new approaches.

Photo by Robert Scoble

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Is Mobile Search More Than Just Being Mobile “Friendly”?

Columnist Trond Lyngbø answers your frequently asked questions about mobile SEO and Google’s upcoming mobile algorithm change.

The post Is Mobile Search More Than Just Being Mobile “Friendly”? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

View full post on Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Google Bolding Answers, Not Just Queries, In The Search Results

Google isn’t just bolding the search query now, but also the answers to your search queries.

The post Google Bolding Answers, Not Just Queries, In The Search Results appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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Apple Just Threw Some Shade At Pebble And Watch App Developers

Maybe Apple didn’t mean to insult other companies in Wired’s feature story on how it developed the Apple Watch. Nonetheless, some of the details that came out of the conversation between writer David Pierce and his subjects—Apple’s Kevin Lynch and Alan Dye—seem to throw a little shade at wearable tech competitors and even developers.

See also: How The Apple Watch Stacks Up To The Competition

The article, “iPhone Killer: The Secret History Of The Apple Watch,” describes the long path Apple took in creating a new type of arm-based experience. The company tried various things, accepting some and rejecting others—which is normal for a tech company creating a new gadget and software. But in this case, those inadequate cast-offs happen to resemble efforts put out by Pebble and a budding crop of watch app makers.

Take these as learning lessons or subtle, disguised barbs. Either way, Apple and its executives won’t be mincing words if the watch becomes a hit. So for now, let’s read between a few lines.

Time Jump

In one section, the Wired story reveals that previous versions of the Apple Watch software took a chronological approach, setting information in a timeline. But the concept was tossed aside early on for Short Looks, which prioritizes info based on whether or not you engage with it, and Glances, which offer a unified place for fast news and updates.

“We rethought the UI,” said Lynch, formerly of Adobe and now Apple’s vice president of technology. “We rebuilt the apps—messaging, mail, calendar—more than once, to really get it refined.” There was apparently no place in the refinement process for chronology—although the concept did find a home at Pebble. 

See also: Meet The New Pebble Time—Though Getting One Will Take … Time

When Pebble founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky told me about his revamped smartwatch software in February, he described a system that presents data based on chronological importance. “Instead of having individual apps, we’ve extracted the information from those apps that are relevant to you in your normal day,” he said. Pebble users can bring up activities that just happened, future appointments or data that’s important right now by hitting assigned buttons on the watch.

Pebble Time Steel

All that “button mashing” can be a turn off for some folks, but apparently not enough to derail Pebble’s new device and platform. Consumers also don’t seem to think a time-based approach is inadequate for a watch: Pebble’s second Kickstarter trounced its first $10 million record-breaking campaign, doubling the funds raised and setting another record. More than 78,000 people pledged more than $20 million to Pebble Time and its new software. Within a day of launch, the campaign was fast approaching the halfway mark, suggesting iPhone-worthy levels of interest.

Here’s some context: Sales for the latest iPhones, the models 6 and 6 Plus, together sold $10 million in their first weekend. If the Apple Watch sells as well as its smartphone counterparts, Apple would be thrilled. If it doesn’t, perhaps the company needs to reconsider whether a time-based concept for a watch is all that wrong-headed after all.

The Watch As A Cure For iPhone Obsession

Speaking of iPhones, our obsession with it and other smartphones is apparently what led Apple to create the Apple Watch.

We spend a great deal of our lives staring at glass displays, and more of us are coming into the fold. According to Pew Internet And American Life Project, nearly two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone. Apple feels responsible for this problem. And, writes Pierce, “it thinks it can fix it with a square slab of metal and a Milanese loop strap.”

The Apple Watch was designed to liberate people from their phones by giving them convenient, but subtle access to data and faster ways to respond to it, if they choose. A lot of that hinges on the interface, which is Alan Dye’s domain.

Dye’s story must be fascinating: He was a graphic designer in the marketing division who helped design product boxes. Now he’s leading Apple’s human interface team.

See also: Apple Watch Developers Can Now Submit Watch Apps To Apple

One thing he doesn’t want is for people to get too involved with their watches. The thought of people uncomfortably holding up their wrists for more than 30 seconds appalls him. “We didn’t want people walking around and doing that,” Dye told Pierce. Ultimately, Apple settled on the idea that watch interactions shouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 seconds. 

But tell that to the burgeoning ranks of developers, now free to swarm the app admissions process with their best watch wares. Productivity apps, finance apps, social apps, news apps, and more are gearing up to make a play for our wrists. Based on what we’ve seen so far, some seem guaranteed to blow through the 10-second rule and give us the sore arms Dye wants to avoid. 

Knowing what the company focused on in creating the device and software should shed light on the experience it ideally wants watch apps to deliver. For instance, Apple spent a year figuring out what a tweet should feel like when translated as vibrations through the “Taptic engine.” Does the company expect others to put as much effort into their apps? Probably not initially, especially since WatchKit hasn’t even been out that long. But even if it were, Apple’s ramping up for the device’s launch now, and it wouldn’t want to squelch developer interest in a new technology that, frankly, not everyone is sold on.

See also: The Apple Watch Looks Great—But It’s Going To Disappoint Lots Of Users

So enjoy Apple’s learning lessons or whatever shade it may want to throw for now. The company won’t be beating around the bush later, especially if the Apple Watch takes off. Because if there’s one thing Apple knows, it’s how to take dead aim when it feels emboldened. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook, calling out Android by quoting ZDNet, at WWDC 2014

Apple Watch photos courtesy of Apple; Pebble Time Steel photo courtesy of Pebble; iPhone photo by Hadrian via Shutterstock

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Lord Sugar’s SEO Company Fails to Climb Online But Still Manages to Bag New … – Just SEO Digital Marketing News

Just SEO Digital Marketing News
Lord Sugar's SEO Company Fails to Climb Online But Still Manages to Bag New
Just SEO Digital Marketing News
Web Developers – the site construction was outsourced to (notice the similarity in the theme?) SEO's – if they had a dedicated SEO their link profile wouldn't be such a toxic mess. SEM's – we've already established they don't

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Don’t Call It a Comeback: Google Just Made Press Releases More Valuable – Business 2 Community

Business 2 Community
Don't Call It a Comeback: Google Just Made Press Releases More Valuable
Business 2 Community
Less than a year ago, Google's Panda 4.0 update devalued press releases as a SEO tactic, in response to far too many companies distributing press releases with zero news value to boost search rankings. As a consequence of rooting out spammy content, …

and more »

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It May Have A Billion Users, But YouTube Isn’t A Sure Thing Just Yet

Since it launched to the public at the end of 2005 (the very first video is still online), YouTube has come to dominate online video in a way that few businesses manage to dominate anything on the Web. Today, it boasts more than a billion users, who are uploading more than 300 hours of video every minute and generating billions of views every single day.

So far, so rosy—but YouTube isn’t exactly the home run that these figures might suggest it is, and it’s facing increasing pressure from all sides. Last month the Wall Street Journal reported that YouTube was only just breaking even; this month, Facebook unveiled a host of new video features designed to steal away a large chunk of YouTube’s share of the market.

See also: Facebook Is Coming After YouTube With Embeddable Videos

Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the only one who wants some of those YouTube eyeballs, either.

A Changing Landscape

Mark Zuckerberg is coming for YouTube

The 360-degree, 4K video uploads YouTube allows today are a world away from the grainy, blocky, buffering clips that appeared in the early days of the site. But it’s not just the technical aspects of online video that have come on in leaps and bounds.

We’re all watching more video than ever before, for example; movies and television shows are available on-demand over the Web in ways that would have been hard to envisage a decade ago; and services like Spotify (launched in 2008) have changed the way we think about content streaming.

Music is an interesting case study for those looking to chart the evolution of YouTube. It was something the video site stumbled into almost accidentally, providing an online, instant access, personalized version of MTV that connected with music lovers (especially younger ones). Before YouTube, there wasn’t really a way to find good-quality music videos online in any great number—today it hosts audio and video for millions of tracks.

Along the way, music on YouTube has become a professional, money-making business through partners like Vevo. But is it making enough? Bar an advert or two, all this content is free to access, and as rumors circulating around Spotify suggest, that’s not a model the record labels are particularly keen to see continue.

Enter YouTube Music Key, which provides ad-free tunes with a few extras thrown in if you pony up $9.99 a month for a Google Play Music subscription (you get both services whichever one you sign up for). From free to ad-supported to subscription in the space of ten years—that’s a substantial evolution, and one that makes you wonder how many more subscription services YouTube has up its sleeve.

See also: YouTube May Be Winning The World And Losing Its Soul

YouTube personalities who produce videos about tech, make-up, cooking, video game  and just about any other topic under the sun are another booming area of business for the channel. That’s no doubt why big names like Facebook and small startups such as small startups such as Vessel are looking to prise these stars (and their audiences) away from Google’s grip.

In the coming years, any big name video personality or successful music artist is going to have more choices than ever for hosting their material. So what does YouTube do next?

A Changing YouTube

Hits like Gangnam Style took off on YouTube.

Google faces a battle to both hang on to the core pillars of YouTube’s popularity as well as expand into more lucrative areas. One of those areas is likely to be video-game streaming and e-sports, a part of the market YouTube has yet to make a mark in (largely thanks to Amazon’s Twitch game-streaming site).

See also: Video Games As Spectator Sport—Why Twitch Is Booming

The Daily Dot reported this week that YouTube is preparing to dust off its live streaming ambitions and make esports the focus. Insider sources suggest Google has already started putting together a team and working on preparing the ground for such a move, with an announcement expected in June.

Live streaming of traditional sports could also be a potential goldmine—this is an area YouTube has dabbled in before, but most of the key events and leagues are tied up in several layers of television rights contracts. It seems it will take a TV-to-online shift in mindsets, like we saw with music, before live broadcasts of the NFL and its ilk can become a reality.

Then there’s the idea of YouTube pulling a Netflix. This is an idea often rumored and half-confirmed by YouTube’s head of content, Robert Kyncl, last month. In short, pay a monthly fee and never see an advert again—presumably a very good deal from YouTube’s perspective as it looks to finally get in the black and stay there. There’s potential too in a closer relationship with Google Play, providing a Web-based streaming equivalent to iTunes.

What’s certain is that YouTube can’t stand still, even with a billion user accounts to its name. If it’s going to be prospering at 20, then it’s will have to be significantly different from the YouTube of today.

Mark Zuckerberg photo by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite; other images courtesy of Google

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Apple May Have Just Killed An Open Source Project

On Tuesday, Apple acquired FoundationDB, an enterprise software company with a major open source component. On Wednesday, that open source component was no more.

See also: Apple Buys FoundationDB In A Decisive Break With The Jobs Playbook

FoundationDB’s GitHub page, which was a bustling open source repository mere hours ago, has now been locked up. “This organization has no public repositories,” a message now reads, indicating that FoundationDB’s new owners have made the project closed source.

Many developers were using FoundationDB’s open source software for database projects when the software was pulled. Unless those developers had made clones of the GitHub repository, the takedown could put their projects at risk. A group of Hacker News commenters dedicated a thread to discovering recent forks of the repository for anyone using it.

“Pulling an open-source project upon which people may depend is total jerk behavior,” one commenter wrote.

According to commenters on a TechCrunch article about the acquisition, neither FoundationDB nor Apple warned anyone using deployed versions of the software that they were about to close the open-source repository. With such warning, developers could have at least cloned the software on their own accounts and continued their work without major interruption.

Developers had no warning that there was anything unstable about FoundationDB’s open source status. Before the Apple acquisition, company’s FAQ stated, “We have released several FoundationDB language bindings and layers as open source software and anticipate continuing to do so.” The FAQ has been pulled, but you can still read it here.

With this move, Apple is indicating that everything FoundationDB has created is for its use alone, regardless of how recently it was intended for everyone’s use. It’s certainly Apple’s right to do so, but there’s nothing nice about it. 

Photo by hans van den berg

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