John Muller
Gay Marriage? `Go Figure’

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In ruling against gay-marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin, Judge Richard Posner eviscerated the states’ efforts to defend discrimination.

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Q&A: The sci-fi optimist : Nature : Nature Publishing Group

See on - Brain Candy

Best-selling science-fiction writer Neal Stephenson’s works cover everything from cryptography to Sumerian mythology. Ahead of next year’s novel Seveneves, he talks about his influences, the stagnation in material technologies, and Hieroglyph, the forthcoming science-fiction anthology that he kick-started to stimulate the next generation of engineers.

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The dark side of data centres | FT Alphaville

See on - Tech Infrastructure

Most technology users remain blissfully unaware of the internet’s carbon footprint because most “users” never have to come up close and personal with a data centre.

Yet, for all the energy efficiency that technology brings us, data centres remain the technology world’s dark little energy guzzling secret.

Data centres, it could be said, represent the unglamorous side of the technology business. They’re the plumbing that holds the whole thing together. They’re the secret sauce that gives one player an advantage over another. As a consequence, there’s zero advantage — either from a security or cosmetic point of view — of bringing attention to where your data centre is located, how it is run or how much energy it consumes.

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iPhone 6 and Android value

See on - The Innovation Economy

The new iPhones were much the most predictable part of Apple’s event -
widely leaked and impelled by an irresistible logic - the customer is
always right. For all that Apple thought and argued that you should
optimize for the thumb size, it turns out optimizing for the pocket size is
a better metric. *

(Of course, this isn’t the first time - Steve Jobs famously said that
no-one would watch video on an iPod, and that small tablets should come
with sandpaper for your fingers).

Meanwhile, Apple did not, as I and others have argued it now could, make
any real change to its pricing strategy. We still have a new model at $600 
or so (plus another that’s even more expensive) and older models at $100 
and $200 cheaper, together with a (very) large secondary market act to
address some of the top of the mid-range, but no more. 

Instead, these phones are a direct move against premium Android. 

Apple currently has about 10% of global handset unit sales, at an ASP of
$550-600, and Android has another 50% at an ASP of $250-300 (almost all the
rest are feature phones, now also converting fast to Android at well under
$100). But within that Android there is a lucrative segment of high-end
phones that sells at roughly the same price and in roughly the same numbers
as the iPhone. To put this another way, Apple has 10% of the handset market
but half of the high-end, and Android has the other half of the high end. 

That Android high-end is dominated by Samsung, and by screens with larger
screens than previous iPhones. Until now.

How much of an impact will these new iPhones have on that segment? There
are a bunch of reasons why someone would buy a high-end Android rather than
an iPhone:

1. Their operator subsidies an Android but not an iPhone - this has now
ended, with Apple adding distribution with all the last significant
hold-outs (Sprint, DoCoMo, China Mobile)
2. They don’t particularly care what phone they get and the salesman was
on more commission to sell Androids or, more probably, Samsungs that
day (and iPhones the next, of course)
3. They have a dislike of Apple per se - this is hard to quantify but
probably pretty small, and balanced by people with a dislike of
4. They are heavily bought into the Google ecosystem
5. They like the customizations that are possible with Android and that
have not been possible with iOS until (to a much increased extent)
iOS8 (more broadly, once could characterize this as ‘personal taste’)
6. They want a larger screen. 

Splitting these out, the first has largely gone, the second is of little
value to an ecosystem player and nets out at zero (i.e. Apple gains as many
indifferent users as it loses) and the third is small. Apple has now
addressed the fifth and sixth, and the massive increase in third-party
attach points means that Google’s ecosystem (and Facebook’s incidentally)
can now push deep into iOS - if Google chooses to do so. 

That is, with the iPhone 6 and iOS8, Apple has done its best to close off
all the reasons to buy high-end Android beyond simple personal preference.
You can get a bigger screen, you can change the keyboard, you can put
widgets on the notification panel (if you insist) and so on. Pretty much
all the external reasons to choose Android are addressed - what remains is
personal taste.

Amongst other things, this is a major cull of Steve Jobs’ sacred cows -
lots of these are decisions he was deeply involved in. No-one was quicker
than Steve Jobs himself to change his mind, but it’s refreshing to see so
many outdated assumptions being thrown out. 

Meanwhile, with the iPhone 6 Plus (a very Microsofty name, it must be said)
Apple is also tackling the phablet market head on. The available data
suggests this is mostly important in East Asia but not actually dominant
even there - perhaps 10-20% of units except in South Korea, where it is
much larger.  Samsung has tried hard to make the pen (or rather stylus) a
key selling point for these devices, but without widespread developer
support (there is nothing as magical as Paper for the Note) it is not clear
that these devices have actually sold on anything beyond screen size and
inverse price sensitivity (that is, people buy it because it’s the ‘best’
and most expensive one). That in turn means the 6 Plus could be a straight

Finally, not unlike Nokia for much of its history, Apple remains the only
handset maker of scale making phones with a premium hardware design. Both
Nokia and HTC also made equally desirable hardware but for different
reasons have faded from the scene, while Samsung appears unable to make the
shift in approach that this would necessitate. Several Chinese OEMs are
making significant progress here (most obviously Xiaomi), but are not yet
in a position to challenge Apple directly, and indeed are much more of a
problem for Samsung, which finds itself squeezed in the middle. 

Setting aside the OEM horse-race commentary, the important thing about this
move is how much it tends to reinforce the dominant dynamic of the two
ecosystems - that Apple has a quarter of the users but three quarters of
the value.  

We know from data given at WWDC and Google IO that Apple paid out ~$10bn to
iOS developers in the previous 12 months and Google paid out ~$5bn. Yet,
Google reported “1bn” Android users (outside China). Apple, depending on
your assumptions about replacement rates, has between 550m and 650m active
devices (though fewer total human users). That is, Apple brought in twice
the app revenue on a little over half the users. (I wrote a detailed
analysis of this here.)

We used to say that of course the average spend for Android users was
lower, because the devices were available at any price for $80 to $800 
where iPhones average $600, and sold well in poorer countries, but the
premium Android users were bound to be worth much the same as iPhone users.
This new data showed that this was not true. 

If premium Android users were worth the same as iPhone users, but the
mid-range and low-end Android users were (naturally) worth less, then the
Android number should have been (say) $11bn versus Apple’s $10bn. But it’s
$5bn. So, even the premium Android users, the very best ones - even the
people buying phablets - are worth much less to the ecosystem than an
iPhone user. And now Apple is now going after them too. 

This takes us to a final question - is it the users or is it the ecosystem?
If Apple converts a big chunk of premium Android users to the iPhone 6 when
they come to refresh their phones (and note that since they won’t all have
bought their phones in September 2012, they won’t all be up for upgrade as
soon as the new iPhones come out), will their behavior change? Are we
seeing less ecosystem value for these users because of differences in the
platform they’re on, or is there something different about those users’

And, of course, if those users do leave, what will the Android metrics look
like then?

* Just as for multitasking, and the new extensions in iOS8, Apple had to
work hard to make this possible - in this case it had to move away from
pixel-perfect layouts to something more responsive. This of course is where
Android started - since it was predicated on a wide range of devices it had
to allow for different layouts, where Apple started from one screen size.
This, I think, reflects a broader trend - that Android and iPhone started
in quite different places and have converged over the past 5 years.

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‘Baby Ride Easy’ by Carlene Carter and Dave Edmunds is my new jam.
Legal and Legendary: The Indomitable Serena Williams Wins Major No. 18 at the U.S. Open

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Before yesterday, Serena Williams had a terrible year. Bad, baffling losses at the first three majors. Long stretches in which her magnificent serve was merely mediocre. Games in which her freewhee…

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A Sort of iCloud: 11 Takeaways From U2’s New, Free, Apple-Foisted Album, ‘Songs of Innocence’

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How many people were moderately curious to check out the new U2 album forcibly inserted into their iTunes library, and then recoiled when they saw that the first track was called “The Miracle (of J…

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Run a Mile Race, Instead of a Marathon

See on - Health Fitness Nutrition

Running mile-long races is back in vogue as short, intense workouts help people live longer and stay fit.

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With New ‘Buy’ Button, Twitter Turns Itself Into a Shopping Mall | Business | WIRED

See on - Commerce and Payments

Twitter is now testing a system, long in the works, that lets businesses embed “Buy” buttons in their tweets, so that you can instantly purchase products through the popular social networking service.

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The only way to defeat the Islamic State

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The U.S. must expand Stanley McChrystal’s method of war.

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