Business

cover_thumbThe first book I have finished this year is Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein. The book covers the development of the iPhone, iPad, development of Android based phones, looks at the legal battle that erupted between Samsung and Apple, and finally, what these gadgets have done to change the market in a broad sense. I have seen this stated in other reviews and it held true for me after reading the book myself, that the first two-thirds of the book is the best part of the book and that it tails off after that. I read the first two-thirds of the book over the course of five days and it took me another week to finish the last third of the book. The first seven chapters make up the telling of the creation of the iPhone, Android, and the iPad and the battle that takes place between Apple and Google once Apple learns about Android. Those first seven chapters are the strongest and where we learn most interesting details about the inside stories of the two most popular mobile operating systems. It is in the telling of the back and forth story between Apple and Google where Fred Vogelstein shines in the book. The chapter covering the trial between Samsung and Apple was alright, just did not grab me as much as the previous seven chapters.  It did not cover as many interesting details which I guess is not a huge surprise given it was focused on a patent trial. The next two chapters are a bit different than the rest of the book, focusing on the more industry-wide effects that iOS and Android devices have had on the world of technology. From how it has effected websites, to media publishing, and the entertainment industry of movies and TV among other things.  While there is some good information in this section it just is a bit of a different turn for the book after a much closer look at a smaller set of topics in only two companies and topics in the first seven chapters. Overall if you enjoy reading about technology and parts of the inside stories surrounding Apple and Google, there is enough good information I think to read this book in the end. Although it is interesting after reading this book and now several weeks after I have finished it, a lot of the details from it have not stuck with me as well as I might have thought since I have just so recently read it.


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The Costs of Over Working

by Matt Pollari on January 27, 2014

in Business, Life, Matt's thoughts

working-overtimeI came across a good article at The New Yorker about over working which is a issue that certainly has become more prevalent with the advent of technology that allows people to stay connected to work much more easily.  While the article mainly takes a look at it through the financial sector, I think the problems of over working is applicable to many professions.  I certainly know the feeling of working more than your standard 40 hours because most of my paid jobs in the last few years have been on political campaigns. The norm is to work between 60-80 and even close to 100 hours of the week.  That being the 7 day work week since there rarely is a day off in the world of political campaigns. Going into campaigns you know that is the case and expect those types of hours, but that knowledge does not keep you from some times having those days where you are just dragging a bit.  One quote I wanted to pull out of the article that talks about the problems of overworking:

The perplexing thing about the cult of overwork is that, as we’ve known for a while, long hours diminish both productivity and quality. Among industrial workers, overtime raises the rate of mistakes and safety mishaps; likewise, for knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level. As Solomon put it, past a certain point overworked people become “less efficient and less effective.” And the effects are cumulative. The bankers Michel studied started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgment declined.

via James Surowiecki: The Costs of Working Too Much : The New Yorker.

I can very much understand how that could happen to people who have worked such long hours for a sustained period of time over multiple years. Being able to find the right work-life balance is important I think for every one so that you can keep your mental and physical health at a good level.  What that balance is for each person I am sure is a bit different but important to find.  This second quote from the article I also found interesting:

When new regulations limited medical residents’ working hours to eighty a week, many doctors complained of declining standards and mollycoddling, and said that it would have a disastrous effect on training, even though residents in Europe work many fewer hours, without harming the quality of medical care. “I went through it, so you should” is a difficult impulse to resist. 

The comparison between European and American work hours is not totally new to me, but still interesting when I come across good examples that illustrate it. I also certainly understand the impulse of if “I went through it you should too.” I think it is a bit natural to have people go through what you had to go through, the feeling of that type of working conditions is a rite of passage or similar feelings.

The issue of overworking certainly is a subject that needs to be discussed and I thought I would share my experience of over working related to the jobs I have had. The whole article is well worth a read and is not real long, so check it out. 

Image courtesy of I Drew Something Blog


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I think this quick quote really helps show the dramatic success Apple’s iPad has been.

Apple sold 11.8 million iPads during the quarter, more than double the number it sold last year. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, helped put this in perspective during the company’s earnings call.“Just two years after we shipped the initial iPad, we sold 67 million,” he said. “It took us 24 years to sell that many Macs, and five years for that many iPods, and over three years for that many iPhones.”

via Tim Cook Spells Out the Rapid Growth of Apples iPad – NYTimes.com.


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While SOPA and Protect IP are dead, we still need to be aware of what the next regulation or purposed laws will be.  The cause for concern here is a purposed provision in a leaked version of the  Trans-Pacific Parntership agreement (TPP).  What Hollywood in this case wants to regulate is:

the treaty contemplates requiring licenses for ephemeral copies made in a computer’s buffer. That means that the buffers in your machine could need a separate, negotiated license for every playback of copyrighted works, and buffer designs that the entertainment industry doesn’t like — core technical architectures — would become legally fraught because they’d require millions of license negotiations or they’d put users in danger of lawsuits.  

Via Son-of-ACTA, the TPP, wants to legislate buffers – Boing Boing.

This type of regulation has been purposed before (for more information on that see link above) and has been beaten back before.  In a Techdirt.com article, notes how this could present a real challenge to innovation/new services company’s could provide, giving this example as one case:

What the negotiators here are trying to do is to kill off any cloud streaming service (or require it to pay a lot extra). In the US, a few years ago, the 2nd Circuit ruled that Cablevision’s remote DVR was legal. Basically, Cablevision set up a bunch of servers that could act like a standard DVR, but rather than the box being at home, it was in a central data center. The TV networks freaked out about this and insisted that it must be illegal. But, of course, the only real difference between this and a TiVo was how long the cord between the DVR and the TV was. It seems ridiculous to think that the copyright could be impacted by the length of the cable. 

The key, then, to the TV guys’ argument against Cablevision was to show that Cablevision itself was involved in copying works without a license. Since it was the user pushing the button to “record” something that argument wasn’t very strong — so they picked up on a specific piece: that in the process of making this work, Cablevision had to, for an exceptionally brief period of time,buffer the TV streams that it was playing. The crux of the TV networks’ argument against Cablevision was that it was that buffer that violated copyright law. The court laughed this off, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal, leaving the ruling standing.

via The Real Goal Of Regulating Buffer Copies? So Hollywood Can Put A Tollbooth On Innovation | Techdirt.

To me this leaked draft provision of the newest TPP agreement, just shows how companies are more interested in trying to control their content and looking for new ways to put up road blocks to innovation and new ways of doing things that is unless they get their cut every time their content is somehow moved even if that is just transferring on a computer for content that the person has already paid for.  As the TechDirt.com article rightly points out, this type of regulation vastly extends beyond just hollywood content, in that it would have an effect really on type of digital file that a buffered copy was created of.  The article goes on to say:

For anyone who knows anything about technology, such a proposal is pure insanity. It’s an attempt to massively expand copyright law in the age of computers, for something that has nothing to do with the intended purpose, nor components, of existing copyright law. It seeks to put a legal liability for a transitional state of content for no reason other than that Hollywood wants to get paid any and every time a piece of content is touched. 

This kind of broad over reach just goes to show how important it is to keep aware of what is going on in these types of new purposed regulations, laws and treaties, to help beat back these type of ideas that are harmful to the future of technology and innovation.


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Under a new deal between the two companies, Netflix users won’t just have to wait 56 days to rent Warner Bros. movies on DVD. They’ll have to wait 28 days to add the movies to their queues.

As part of the Warner’s continuing effort to boost its DVD, Blu-ray, and video-on-demand business, the studio’s new deal with Netflix throws up a new roadblock for people willing to wait and get the movie as part of their monthly subscription.

via Netflix deal with Warner Bros. includes delay in queues – latimes.com.

Making people wait to just add it to their queues on Netflix, just another example of why people dislike Hollywood entertainment companies sometimes.

I totally agree with Marco Arment (creator of Instapaper) on what this delay means for me in practice.

If I’m adding a movie to my Netflix queue, I’ve already decided not to buy the DVD. I’m adding it because it looks mildly interesting and I’d like to watch it sometime. If I can’t add it to Netflix, I’ll just forget about it and probably never see it.

via Netflix deal with Warner Bros. includes delay in queues – Marco.org.

To further echo that, If I am looking to rent a movie it is likely one that I did not have enough interest to see in the theater itself. That means I am not real interested in buying it before I have seen it, so I will wait to rent it.

The point that MG Siegler makes below is very pausbile I think in the long term.

I hope we all realize where this eventually leads: the banning of movie rentals entirely. 

via parislemon • A 28-Day Window Before You Can Even *Think* About Renting A Movie.

That leads into my final point, that making it harder for consumers to access and enjoy the movie and TV studio’s content does not help in the fight against piracy.  I am not advocating piracy here in response to this, but the harder companies make it or more barriers the companies put up to access their content, they should not be surprised if people turn to other means. In that sense this issue is just another facet of the fight over SOPA/Protect IP, if companies offered easier ways to pay at fair prices to let us use their content, company likely would see more people take advantage of those opportunities. One example is the iTunes music store.


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All images come from AmericanCensorship.org

When I started to learn about SOPA and the Protect IP Act that were being considered in the House and the Senate, I was saddened to see that both of my Senators Klobuchar and Franken were supporters and co-sponsors of it. I wrote a short letter to Franken about my dislike for Protect IP and I got a letter back from his office which seemed to have as one of the main reasons for his support of it being the protection of American jobs. So in crafting a reply to that argument I did quite a bit of research.  With that research I ended up creating a lengthy reply that I think helps to show while Protect IP may be designed to protect some industries and jobs in them, it also as it is currently written will have quite a negative impact on many other industries and jobs. The results of what I found in my research are below.  If you want to see a PDF of this piece with all the footnotes and bibliography, you can download it here:  PDF

Let me make clear I am not against better enforcement of copyright, as long as it is done in a fair and just way both for the copyright holder and the accused party so that they have reasonable means to contest it if they feel they are wrongfully accused of infringement. Any new bill should balance the need of the copyright holder and potential new business’ ability to innovate without there being overburdened with legal worry.  After looking into SOPA and Protect IP they do not seem to fit into that criteria. [click to continue…]


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A good article on the changing landscape in technology and the devices the companies make. The article talks about several reasons have helped speed up the process of declaring them a failure or success. Which really is not a huge surprise given the growth of Twitter, Facebook, and tech websites and other places that all help to speed up the process on reviews and the collective consensus for each new device, which is talked about a bit in the article.

I think that is partly where Apple is successful they often are able to create great buzz around their products.  The company then also has to deliver the goods when the product is actually shipped or all the hype won’t help once it is out, and in terms of hardware devices Apple has had an amazing success rate in the last decade.

These days, big technology companies — particularly those in the hypercompetitive smartphone and tablet industries — are starting to resemble Hollywood film studios. Every release needs to be a blockbuster, and the only measure of success is the opening-weekend gross. There is little to no room for the sleeper indie hit that builds good word of mouth to become a solid performer over time.

Some analysts trace the origin of this blockbuster-or-bust mentality to Apple. Each release of the company’s popular iPads and iPhones crosses over into being a mainstream media event. Al Hilwa, an analyst at the research firm IDC, described the accelerated lifecycle of high-end hardware as “Darwinian.”

“There’s a level of desperation from anyone whose name is not Apple,” said Al Hilwa, an analyst at the research firm IDC.

via Technology Devices Either Sell Big or Die Fast – NYTimes.com.


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This piece over at Grantland is an interesting look at sports ownership in general and how it relates to the current NBA lockout that is going on.  How you have two kinds of owners, one who look at sports teams as a business and the second, owners who look at their teams as getting enjoyment from simply owning a sports team.

[Tom] Yawkey [Red Sox's Owner 1930's-70's] was not just a racist, in other words. He was a racist who put his hatred of black people ahead of his desire to make money. Economists have a special term they use to describe this kind of attitude. They would say that Yawkey owned the Red Sox not to maximize his financial benefits, but, rather, his psychic benefits. Psychic benefits describe the pleasure that someone gets from owning something — over and above economic returns — and clearly some part of the pleasure Yawkey got from the Red Sox came from not having to look at black people when he walked through the Fenway Park dugout. In discussions of pro sports, the role of psychic benefits doesn’t get a lot of attention. But it should, because it is the key to understanding all kinds of behavior by sports owners — most recently the peculiar position taken by management in the NBA labor dispute.

In discussions of pro sports, the role of psychic benefits doesn’t get a lot of attention. But it should, because it is the key to understanding all kinds of behavior by sports owners — most recently the peculiar position taken by management in the NBA labor dispute.

via Malcolm Gladwell on the NBA lockout – Grantland.


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John Gruber of Daring Fireball pointed me to a worthy idea of how news websites such as the New York Times can avoid paywalls but at the same time have a system that can help them generate new revenue.  This option makes sense to me and is certainly something I might consider purchasing for sites I visited enough depending on the price points they used.

Business Class for News

I love this idea from Oliver Reichenstein: a premium “business class” level for news websites. Stop trying to figure out ways to block the flow of information with paywalls. Allow everyone the same access to the content — in the way that every passenger gets transported from A to B on an airplane — but allow people to pay for a superior experience.

via Daring Fireball. Link to full article: Information Architects – Business Class: Freemium for News?.


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Two great articles that look at different angles as to why Apple has been so successful over the last decade.  The stat in the quote below from the NY Times piece, about how how if the iPad itself was a stand alone company, really illustrates how much of a success it has been.  The second article gives great insight on why Apple has been successful by explaining the philosophy that drives Apple and Steve Jobs.

Hit products like the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are fueling Apple’s logic-defying growth. The latest entry — the iPad, introduced in April — is on track to deliver $15 billion to $20 billion in revenue in its first full year of sales, estimates A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. At that size, if the iPad were a stand-alone company, it would rank within the top third of the Fortune 500.

via At Apple, the Platform Is the Engine of Growth – NYTimes.com.

 

Apple’s successful conquest of Sony’s home turf could be seen as the final evidence that the Cupertino company is what Deutschman calls Sony’s “spiritual successor.” “Under Jobs, Apple has the kind of passion for design and innovation that Sony did in its heyday,” he says. “Everything they do is the ‘greatest thing we’ve ever done,’ which will ‘once again change the world.’ And recently, most of the time they’ve been right.

via How Steve Jobs ‘out-Japanned’ Japan

 


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