Businessweek Profiles Google X ★
Brad Stone feature for Businessweek, “Inside Google’s Secret Lab”:
While Teller runs the day-to-day operations at X, he reports to
Brin. (“Sergey is Bruce Wayne, and I’m Lucius Fox,” Teller says.)
Colleagues say that since Page became CEO in late 2011, Brin
spends most of his time immersed in the technical details of
several projects at Google X. Although he declined several
requests to speak for this story, on a typically bucolic day at
the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif., Brin happens by a
reporter and two Google spokespeople eating lunch outside and
spontaneously joins the group. “I think I’m going to spend most
of my time now on cars,” he says, by way of introduction. Asked
about Google Glass, a project he championed and which he has been
photographed testing on the New York City subway, he points to
the device perched on his nose and says, “You know, this is
(a) Glass is “basically done”? Really?
(b) If Google X is so secret why are Businessweek reporters invited to tour it and profile members of the team?
Windows vs. iPad: Compare Tablets ★
Microsoft still loves their product comparison checklists.
Update: And there’s a TV ad too. It’s cute in a playing-for-second-place way. Microsoft is pitching Windows 8 tablets as the natural rival for the iPad; implicit in this is the dismissal of Android tablets from the equation. The message isn’t “Buy a Windows tablet instead of an iPad” so much as “If you want something other than an iPad, you should buy a Windows tablet.” Are iPad users, en masse, clamoring for multiple apps sharing the screen side-by-side? For PowerPoint? No. This is pitched at people who don’t like the iPad. That’s a play for second place, because most people do like the iPad.
Funny how the tables have turned since the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” days.
Tim Bray on Glass ★
But people, and there are a lot of them, who are saying “Glass is
doomed because it’s dorky-looking/privacy-invasive/anti-social”
are pretty well wrong; it’s more complex than that.
‘Don’t Say GIF’ ★
Fun song by Gonathan Mann.
Steve Jobs/James Murdoch E-Book Negotiations ★
Zachary Seward, writing for Quartz:
The emails have mostly been viewed in the context of the lawsuit,
but they also provide an extraordinary view of high-stakes
negotiation between the leaders of two powerful firms, Apple and
News Corp. They start far apart, but over the course of five days,
Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs successfully pulls the son of News
Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch over to his side.
Interesting too, that the negotiations came so close to the debut of the iPad.
Michael Gartenberg Joins Apple ★
Connie Guglielmo, reporting for Forbes:
Michael Gartenberg, a longtime industry analyst known for covering
digital media technologies and companies including Microsoft and
Apple, has left his post as an analyst at Gartner Inc. to take a
job with Apple.
Gartenberg didn’t immediately reply to a voicemail message left at
his office at Apple asking him to talk about his new role for the
Cupertino, California-based company. He is working on the
marketing team under Apple’s global marketing chief Phil Schiller,
according to sources.
Smart hire. Going to be weird seeing him on the other side of the line at Apple press events.
Reuters Headline Yesterday: ‘Intel CEO Shakes Up Units, Creates “New Devices” Group’ ★
Reuters headline three weeks ago: “Intel Picks Insider as CEO, Dashing Hopes for Shakeup”.
Azure Is the Future of Microsoft ★
Microsoft is a devices and services company. The services part is
the biggest part. Azure is the king of Microsoft services. Azure
is the future of Microsoft.
Azure is so key to Microsoft’s future, in fact, that I’m starting
to question the use of the name Windows on that brand. In many
ways it doesn’t make sense to call such a thing Windows at all.
Azure’s a nice name. (And Azure SQL Database rolls off the tongue
a lot more easily than does Windows Azure SQL Database. Just
I wrote yesterday that “Xbox is Microsoft’s foothold in the post-PC world.” That’s really just thinking about the device side. The cloud side is every bit as important. There is no post-PC world without ubiquitous cloud storage and messaging.
The Verge: ‘HTC in Disarray’ ★
Chris Ziegler, reporting for The Verge:
The Verge has learned that HTC’s Chief Product Officer, Kouji
Kodera, left the company last week. Kodera was responsible for
HTC’s overall product strategy, which makes the departure
especially notable on the heels of the global launch of the
It’s not just Kodera. In the past three-odd months, HTC has lost a
number of employees in rapid succession — most recently Jason
Gordon, the company’s vice president of global communications.
Other fresh departures include global retail marketing manager
Rebecca Rowland, director of digital marketing John Starkweather,
and product strategy manager Eric Lin.
Pew: 94 Percent of U.S. Teenagers Who Use Social Media Use Facebook ★
Greg Sterling, Marketing Land:
According to the report, 95 percent of teens (12-17) use the
internet and 81 percent of them use social media sites. Facebook
is by far the most heavily adopted social site, with 94 percent of
social media teens reporting they have a profile there.
That’s rather astounding.
Howard Gleckman on Apple’s Taxes ★
Howard Gleckman, writing for the Tax Policy Center:
Because Apple is so profitable, the dollars involved will
certainly attract attention (this is a Senate committee after all,
so that is the point). The report alleges Apple reduced its U.S.
corporate income tax by an average of $10 billion-a-year for the
past four years. Since the corporate levy generated only about
$240 billion in 2012, $10 billion foregone from one company is a
very big number indeed.
But while it added a few interesting twists, Apple cut its taxes
with the same tools multinationals have been using for years to
minimize their worldwide tax liability. And if there is a scandal,
I suppose it is the very ordinariness of these transactions.
Apple’s tax avoidance shop, it seems, is a lot less innovative
than its phone designers.
The Talk Show, Live ★
Speaking of The Talk Show, we’re doing another live audience episode in San Francisco on Tuesday 11 June, the second day of WWDC. Last year’s show was great, this year’s should be even better.
Update: Sold out, but stay tuned. We might have a few more tickets available closer to the event.
All New Flickr Design ★
Big week for Yahoo.
‘See You on Larry’s Island’ ★
This week’s episode of The Talk Show, with special guest Merlin Mann. We cover important, serious issues, such as whether Larry Page more resembles a Bond villain or Magneto. In other words, the usual.
Brought to you by two great sponsors:
- Squarespace: Everything you need to build exceptional websites.
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Apple’s Prepared Testimony Before U.S. Senate ★
An interesting read, including this:
Apple does not use tax gimmicks. Apple does not move its intellectual property into offshore tax havens and use it to sell products back into the US in order to avoid US tax; it does not use revolving loans from foreign subsidiaries to fund its domestic operations; it does not hold money on a Caribbean island; and it does not have a bank account in the Cayman Islands. Apple has substantial foreign cash because it sells the majority of its products outside the US. International operations accounted for 61% of Apple’s revenue last year and two-thirds of its revenue last quarter. These foreign earnings are taxed in the jurisdiction where they are earned (“foreign, post-tax income”).
(Via Jim Dalrymple.)
The One-Person Product ★
Marco Arment on the Yahoo/Tumblr deal. Great perspective from the inside.
Two Takes on Google Glass at I/O ★
Mark Wilson, writing for Fast Company: “Even Google’s Own Developers Won’t Be Seen Wearing Google Glass”:
Those of us who believe in the future of Glass technology can
identify other culprits: We can blame price. We can blame
availability. We can blame battery. We can blame the silly
aesthetic. We can even blame it on the rain! But imagine if Apple
announced their new iPhone, yet almost no one at Cupertino felt
the need to carry one. Or imagine if Ford announced a new car, but
their execs insisted on biking to work.
If Google’s own cohort doesn’t feel compelled to wear Glass in
spite of its perfectly predictable shortcomings, why would they
ever expect that the rest of us will?
But then here’s Pete Pachal, writing for Mashable: “Google Glass Stole the Show at Google I/O 2013”:
The glaring omission didn’t stop Glass from stealing the show for
the rest of the conference, though. Day 2 of I/O was packed with
sessions on Glass, including one where official Twitter, Facebook
and Tumblr apps made their debut. The sessions themselves garnered
the kind of lineups usually reserved Lady Gaga tickets. Many
developers were walking around wearing Glass, but it was the looks
of jealousy from the Glass-less that underscored just how much
interest there is in Google’s head-mounted gadget.
One of these guys is wrong.
Samsung’s Share of Android Hardware Profit ★
Andy Boxall, writing for Digital Trends:
Analysts broke it down like this: Globally, it’s estimated the
Android industry made $5.3 billion profit in the first quarter of
this year, while the profit estimates for Android phones shipped
by Samsung comes in at $5.1 billion for the same period. The exact
figure quoted is 94.7 percent profit share, and that’s not
including tablets either.
According to Strategy Analytics’ chart, in a (very) distant second
place is LG, with 2.5 percent profit share, while all the other
Android phone manufacturers — think about it, that’s everyone
from Sony and HTC to Huawei, Acer and ZTE — are lumped into an
Others category, which totals 2.7 percent.
Yahoo Acquires Tumblr ★
Marissa Mayer, on her Tumblr:
I’m delighted to announce that we’ve reached an agreement to
We promise not to screw it up. Tumblr is incredibly special and
has a great thing going. We will operate Tumblr independently.
David Karp will remain CEO. The product roadmap, their team, their
wit and irreverence will all remain the same as will their mission
to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of
the audience they deserve. Yahoo! will help Tumblr get even
better, faster. […]
I’ve long held the view that in all things art and design, you can
feel the spirit and demeanor of those who create them. That’s why
it was no surprise to me that David Karp is one of the nicest,
most empathetic people I’ve ever met. He’s also one of the most
perceptive, capable entrepreneurs I’ve worked with. His respect
for Tumblr’s community of creators is awesome, and I’m absolutely
delighted to have him and his entire team join Yahoo!.
Humanely written. Love the “We promise not to screw it up”, because it’s a direct acknowledgement of every Tumblr user’s primary concern. That’s a weird sentence to put in a billion-dollar deal announcement, but I like it.
Thursday, 16 May 2013
Ian Betteridge spoofed my “Google Versus” piece from yesterday, using this oft-cited quote from Steve Jobs speaking at Macworld Expo back in 1997:
“We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft
has to lose,” Jobs said. “We have to embrace the notion that for
Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. If others are
going to help us, that’s great. Because we need all the help we
can get. […] The era of setting this up as a competition between
Apple and Microsoft is over.”
Betteridge is off the mark on this one. That quote from Jobs was very specific. It came at a time when Apple was not making great products, and when Apple’s fans and perhaps even employees were locked into a mindset that the wrong platform — Windows — had won. That Windows’s almost unimaginable success, its spectacular rise to worldwide ubiquity, was an injustice — one that only Apple could right. He wasn’t claiming that for Apple to succeed no one had to lose, only Microsoft (and, really, Windows in particular — as opposed to then-future initiatives like MP3 players and mobile phones, where for Apple to succeed it certainly helped that Microsoft lost).
Note too that Jobs’s message was bitter medicine. He was surrendering a war that the audience wanted Apple to continue fighting. As Jason Breitkopf noted in a comment on Betteridge’s piece, Jobs was booed, resoundingly,1 by the Macworld audience several times during his announcement. Page’s message at I/O was greeted with applause. Page was telling the I/O audience what they wanted to hear, that Google is something other than a ruthless, greedy competitor.
I’m not arguing that Apple is not also a ruthless and greedy competitor. In fact, my piece yesterday had nothing to do with Apple — only Google. (I should have left Android and the iPhone out of it, as that was the only oblique reference to Apple.) The difference is that Apple hasn’t claimed otherwise. Again, Jobs wasn’t claiming in 1997 that no one had to lose for Apple to win. The drum I’m trying to bang here is not that Google is a greedy competitor, but rather that Google is a greedy competitor that presents itself as anything but — as a sort of peaceful, whimsical, happy-go-lucky techno-futurist corporate utopian — and that rather than see this pose as absurd, many people, Googlers and Google users alike, buy it.
All organizations have aspirations. You’re welcome to roll your eyes at Steve Jobs’s spiel about Apple existing at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, or this from Jony Ive:
“We are really pleased with our revenues but our goal isn’t to
make money. It sounds a little flippant, but it’s the truth. Our
goal and what makes us excited is to make great products. If we
are successful people will like them and if we are operationally
competent, we will make money,” he said.
Mere spin? Perhaps. But those statements from Jobs and Ive are not absurd. If they’re not the absolute truth, they’re at least truthy. Whereas Larry Page’s pablum regarding Google not being pitted against other companies is farcical. Tim O’Reilly had a good line about Microsoft a decade ago:
Microsoft gets a lot of heat for not leaving enough on the table
for others. My mother, who’s English, and quite a character, once
said of Bill Gates, “He sounds like someone who would come to your
house for dinner and say, ‘Thank you. I think I’ll have all the
That’s Google today. What major tech giant has Google not pitted itself against? Whose mashed potatoes do they not seek to take? Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Oracle, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon — Google has made enemies of all of them. The difference between Google’s predatory rapaciousness today and Microsoft’s of yore is that Microsoft wore it on their sleeve, they owned it, celebrated it.
What rankles about Google is their hypocrisy. ★
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Larry Page, on stage at I/O today:
Every story I read about Google is “us versus some other company”
or some stupid thing, and I just don’t find that very interesting.
We should be building great things that don’t exist. Being
negative isn’t how we make progress. Most important things are not
zero sum, there is a lot of opportunity out there.
Google fans seem to eat this kumbaya stuff up, to really believe it. But Google is the company that built Android after the iPhone, Google Plus after Facebook, and now a subscription music service after Spotify. They entered the RSS reader market, wiped it out, and are now just walking away from it. Gmail? Webmail but better. Think about even web search: Google search wasn’t something new; it was something better. Way, way, way better, but still.
Consider maps. Google Maps entered a market where MapQuest and others had been around for years. That wasn’t something great that didn’t already exist. It was a better version of something that already existed. Google is a hyper-competitive company, and they repeatedly enter markets that already exist and crush competitors. Nothing wrong with that. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work, and Google’s successes are admirable. But there’s nothing stupid about seeing Google being pitted “versus” other companies. They want everything; their ambition is boundless. ★
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Josh Constine, writing for AOL/TechCrunch:
Facebook didn’t realize just how important widgets, docks, and app
folders were to Android users, and that leaving them out of Home
was a huge mistake. That’s because some of the Facebookers who
built and tested Home normally carry iPhones, I’ve confirmed. Lack
of “droidfooding” has left Facebook scrambling to add these
features, whose absence have led Home to just 1 million downloads
since launching a month ago. […]
The lack of droidfooders didn’t have serious consequences until
Home, Facebook’s new “apperating system”. It replaces the lock
screen, homescreen, and app launcher of compatible Android phones
with a Facebook-centric experience. It offers Cover Feed, a big,
beautiful way to browser the news feed the second you bring your
phone out of sleep. It’s missing the ability to build real-time
information widgets, put your most used apps in a persistently
visible dock, or organize your collection of apps into folders.
Constine is jumping to some unsupported conclusions here. Is it possible that Facebook Home has fallen flat on Android because it was designed by iPhone users? That’s certainly possible. But more likely, it seems to me, is that Facebook Home is just a bad idea. As I said last week, it’s a well-designed implementation of an idea no one wants. Would iPhone users want this? I can’t see why. And if the problem is that Facebook Home designers are iPhone users, it might explain why they didn’t see the appeal of widgets, but how would it explain the lack of a persistent app dock or app folders? The iPhone has those. I suspect most iPhone users would miss them if they were able to install Facebook Home.
Facebook Home isn’t an iPhone idea. It’s just a bad idea. Facebook is an app, not a platform. A good home screen interface is one that accommodates any app or service, not just one.
There is a dogfooding lesson here, though. Does Mark Zuckerberg carry an HTC First, or any other Android phone with Facebook Home installed? Does Mike Matas? (Doesn’t look like it, judging by the “via Twitter for iPhone” metadata on his recent tweets.) Why not?
It’s always a sign of trouble when you’ve built something you don’t want to use yourself. Why does everyone I know who works at Apple carry an iPhone? Every single one? Not because they have to. It’s because they want to.
Turn Facebook Home into an interface that Facebook designers and engineers want to use, not merely feel obligated to use, and then they’ll have something. But if it remains something that even Facebook’s own designers and engineers do not prefer over the iPhone (or stock Android, or any other platform), if it remains something that the company needs propaganda posters to promote even among its own employees, then Facebook Home will remain what it is now. A dud. ★