This year's string of high profile, platform-exclusive online album releases is beginning to condition everyday consumers to this new reality, but for many, the concept remains confusing, if not frustrating. You mean I have to sign up for a $10 per month subscription just to hear this new album? Why? This is a bit like telling N'Sync fans in 2002: Sorry kids, this one is only available at Tower Records. You might live near a Best Buy or prefer Sam Goody, but it doesn't matter. For now, this music you and millions of others have been waiting for is a Tower Records exclusive.
It reminds me more of video game early exclusives. Sometimes Xbox or Playstation will get something early, usually purchased expansion packs. If you're not willing to own both systems, pay for both services, and buy games based on the exclusive deal of the moment, you just wait a few weeks. It's not customer friendly, but it's also not the end of the world.
Spotify reportedly retaliating against artists doing exclusives
The New York Times:
Executives at two major record labels said that in recent weeks Spotify, which has resisted exclusives, had told them that it had instituted a policy that music that had benefited from such deals on other services would not receive the same level of promotion once it arrived on Spotify; such music may not be as prominently featured or included in as many playlists, said these executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss private negotiations.
That's probably not going to win them many friends. Spotify is obviously very popular and carries clout, but bullying artists probably isn't going to help their standing. Even worse when Apple is seemingly bending over backwards to collaborate.
Report: Apple wants to try social again by taking on Snapchat
Now Apple is starting to develop a video sharing app that allows users to record video, apply filters and drawings to the media -- much like Snapchat does -- and send it to contacts or via existing social networks such as Twitter Inc., according to the people familiar with its development. The software is currently being designed to be used mostly with one hand and with the intention that video could be shot, edited, and uploaded in less than 1 minute, the people said. At least one of the prototype designs for the app would shoot video in an Instagram-like square shape, one of the people said.
Messages in iOS 10 is a significant overhaul to win over users who prefer to use various other chat apps. While all these apps are popular on iOS, their portability makes it easy to switch to Android. On the other hand, if people's network primarily use iOS Messages, people will probably be more likely to stick with iOS.
Whether a stand-alone app or more Messages features make sense given Apple's big push to improve Messages.
On Apple's AI efforts
A really interesting column by Steven Levy. Apple gave him exclusive look at its machine learning efforts in Siri and beyond.
This story of Siri's transformation, revealed for the first time here, might raise an eyebrow in much of the artificial intelligence world. Not that neural nets improved the system -- of course they would do that -- but that Apple was so quietly adept at doing it. Until recently, when Apple's hiring in the AI field has stepped up and the company has made a few high-profile acquisitions, observers have viewed Apple as a laggard in what is shaping up as the most heated competition in the industry: the race to best use those powerful AI tools. Because Apple has always been so tight-lipped about what goes on behind badged doors, the AI cognoscenti didn't know what Apple was up to in machine learning. "It's not part of the community," says Jerry Kaplan, who teaches a course at Stanford on the history of artificial intelligence. "Apple is the NSA of AI." But AI's Brahmins figured that if Apple's efforts were as significant as Google's or Facebook's, they would have heard that.
Last few months it seems Apple has really pulled back the curtain. Future products and plans are still secret as ever, of course, but Apple has been sharing much more in a series of recent features.
This feature appears to address sharp criticized with its AI efforts. People have assumed Apple fell behind because nothing very significant was apparent with Siri. A lot of attention was on this year's Apple developer conference and Apple announced some small stuff, but no major AI initiatives. Microsoft, Google, and Facebook on the other hand have been making public grand plans.
Strategically, I think it's in Apple's interest to talk more about this stuff just from an HR perspective. It must be harder to attract and retain key talent if no one knows anything about what you're doing.
Spotify is trying to renegotiate streaming contracts
The Wall Street Journal is reporting Spotify has been on month-to-month contract extensions with the major music labels for nearly a year. The company is trying to negotiate new long-term deals as it prepares for an IPO next year. The problem is Spotify is trying to pay less while the labels want them to more.
Spotify, which saw its net loss increase to roughly $200 million last year even as revenue doubled to more than $2 billion, wants to pay a smaller share than the nearly 55% of its revenue that it currently pays to record labels and artists, according to people familiar with the matter.
It pays roughly an additional 15% to music publishers and songwriters.
But some major label executives want Spotify to pay them as much as 58% of revenue from both its free and paid tiers. That is what Apple Inc. pays for Apple Music subscribers who aren't on free trials, people familiar with the matter said. Apple has more than 5 million users on free trials, they said.
Reportedly the labels may make compromises if Spotify is willing to put limitations on its free tier. Specifically the labels want the ability to offer new music only to paid subscribers, among other things.
Apple has been ramping up Apple Music. A major refresh of the service is due this fall to address complaints over user friendliness. Apple has also been aggressively seeking exclusive content and developing its own original content to help drive subscriptions.
So called Touch Disease may be a problem for iPhone 6 Plus
iFixit is tracking an issue with the previous generation iPhone's screens. The issue, which they dub Touch Disease, affects the iPhone 6/6 Plus. The problem may be primarily with the larger iPhone 6 Plus.
Essentially the top of the screen goes dead with no display and an unresponsive touch screen. The issue appears to go further than a bad screen and have something to do with the logic board or embedded chips.
After fixing hundreds of broken iPhone 6 and 6 Pluses, many pros have developed theories about what causes Touch Disease in these two specific models. One microsoldering pro I spoke to speculated that the U2402 Meson chip--one of the two Touch IC chips on the board--has a manufacturing defect. But the most popular theory I heard is that Touch Disease is the unanticipated, long-term consequence of a structural design flaw: Bendgate.
Back when the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were first released, some owners discovered that the large, wide phones had a nasty habit of molding themselves to the shape of your rump if left too long in a back pocket. The phenomenon, known as Bendgate, was ostensibly put to bed when Apple apparently strengthened weak points in the rear case of the iPhone 6s.
Apple and the NSA breach
ACLU Principal Technologist:
Apple: If we're forced to build a tool to hack iPhones, someone will steal it.
Russia: We just published NSA's hacking tools
This tweet was a part of a Business Insider article looking at the recent NSA hack. The tweet summarizes well how backdoor tools can go wrong. It's bad enough when exploits and vulnerabilities are hoarded in secret, but a designed backdoor that everyone knows is there should be very tempting. Once it's out, every user is at-risk until patched. In the case of a recent Microsoft mistake, a patch may not always be possible.
Apple, Google, and telecos try to address robocalls
"Americans are fed up," says Federal Communications Commission boss Tom Wheeler. "Robocalls are a scourge. It's the number one complaint that we hear from consumers on a daily basis."
To address those complaints, Apple, Alphabet (you know--the folks who own Google), AT&T, Comcast and other tech companies are joining an FCC task force charged with ending the scourge of automated pre-recorded telemarketing calls.
The problem it seems is getting worse with VOIP, which allows callers to basically generate calls from any number anywhere. Still, it seems like if you can take a systems view, it would seem reasonable you could apply filtering techniques used for SPAM email and malicious websites. By viewing what's going on in the system, plus collecting user feedback, something should be possible to at least reduce the number of illegal calls.
Report: Next Apple Watch won't contain mobile data
Apple had been in talks this year with mobile phone carriers in the U.S. and Europe to add cellular connectivity to the watch, according to people familiar with the talks. A cellular chip would have theoretically allowed the product to download sports score alerts, e-mail and mapping information while out of an iPhone's reach.
During the discussions, Apple executives expressed concern that the cellular models may not be ready for release this year and that the feature may be pushed back to a later generation, according to the people.
It would seem getting mobile data on an Apple Watch is a good way to expand the device beyond iPhone owners. If the Apple Watch can run independently, that's a lot of new potential customers. Also, the possibility of selling more data plans should get the wireless carriers pushing devices and bundling plans for more sales.
I basically have no interest in a data plan on my phone, but i doubt I'm the target for such a feature. WiFi could be interesting alternative, but there was no mention of that.
The Bloomberg report did indicate the next Apple Watch would offer GPS functionality, which should be a nice addition for outdoor fitness workouts.
Apple's changing position in enterprise
The Washington Post:
It is a bit of a departure from Apple's past. Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder, famously disliked courting businesses. Per ZDNet, in 2010, Jobs told then-Wall Street Journal writers Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher:
"What I love about the consumer market, that I always hated about the enterprise market, is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves. They go 'yes' or 'no,' and if enough of them say 'yes,' we get to come to work tomorrow. That's how it works. It's really simple. With the enterprise market, it's not so simple. The people that use the products don't decide for themselves, and the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused."
Given that Jobs thought of Apple's products as a counter to the computing grip that IBM and Microsoft had on offices, his disdain for the enterprise sector makes sense.
But the business market has changed in ways that blunt Jobs's old criticisms. He didn't like that enterprise devices weren't personal; that's no longer the case in a BYOD world. Even when there's a set list of devices approved by a workplace, it almost always includes an iPhone, an iPad or at least some iOS-friendly apps.
Times have certainly changed. I've seen the enterprise ruled by IT, but much is now different. Primarily because of the iPhone and also the cloud, policies have changed to accommodate what then would be seen as pure consumer devices. The iPhone and iPad were so good, IT directors couldn't keep them out in favor of solutions that worked best for them and not the end user, such as junk from Microsoft and BlackBerry.
What is true though is still true now. The difference is end-users in large organizations just now have a vote. If Apple keeps winning votes and manages to court the IT departments, it should only get stronger and stronger in business. This should be good for everyone.