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Thursday, September 22, 2016

We Have No Privacy

Trying to keep a secret?  All it takes is to tell someone else and you risk that secret becoming public.  Worse still, social media means that everything put out on the world wide web, this blog included, is accessible forever.  And worse, information that we use on the web to assure privacy of our content, is forever being hacked. 

The latest hack comes from Yahoo who shared that "user account information was stolen from the company's network in late 2014" according to Business Insider and "The stolen data include names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birthdays, hashed passwords, and some 'encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.'".  We are told that over 500 million accounts were affected.  And if you use the same password for Yahoo that you use for other accounts, your information is at risk. 

It has come to a point that every site we go on needs a unique id and password.  Hard to do and harder to remember the more sites we use.  Start to add up the number of different accounts you use and we have a major problem on our hands trying to keep track of every site we log into.  We can't trust that our passwords are secure, that our personal data is safe, and our privacy is ensured.  The Yahoo story isn't news because they aren't the first or the last to go through this.  But as long as we are on the grid, our privacy is constantly being invaded. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Broadband Technology Could Deliver Faster Cheaper Service

AT&T may have developed new wireless technology that works with existing power lines to deliver faster and cheaper broadband service.  According to Business Insider, "AT&T says AirGig is several times cheaper than standard wireless internet because it's cheaper for the company to deploy and deliver. It can also be used over open wireless spectrum."  As power lines criss cross our nation, that could mean that wireless technology could provide a major boost to rural neighborhoods.  It could also lead to a cheaper competitor that could drive down costs.

How quickly such a service can get approved and rolled out remains to be seen.  Google has certainly been working to deliver broadband to communities; using power lines would hasten the build out process.  The article suggests that Facebook and others would also be interesting in building out a competitive wireless infrastructure. 

The use of power lines to deliver broadband has been discussed before.  But as public utilities, power companies have not seemed to actively try to grow their business.  I look forward to see how AT&T and others expand our broadband coverage and our speed of service. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Twitter NFL Stream Flagged For Delay Of Game

I had the Jets-Bills NFL game on CBS on Thursday night.  It is great to be watching football again this Fall.  And even though I had a big screen view of the game, I did decide to check out the Twitter feed of the game as well.  I was first struck by the clarity of the video.  For my time watching it, I saw a terrific picture.  But there was something that really bothered me.  The game feed was delayed from what was on the TV.  And not just a few second delay, it felt like more than 20 seconds.  A significant delay to the live action. 

I was disappointed.  Not that I was reading tweets of action that the stream had yet to show, but that the delay was of a considerable length.  For those doing both tweetsAnd I guess I was not alone.  Many seemed to criticize it.  I see opportunity for improvement.  The truth is, for those that aren't able to watch the game, whether simply away from home or needing to multitask with some other activity, access is everything.  And if it lets you watch, its better than not getting to watch at all. 

My hope is that the delay issue can be improved and that Twitter continues to tout its access and its desire to create the best streaming experience possible.  Truth is sports is a draw and the NFL is a great sport to grow with.  It is why broadcasters have spent fortunes to get the NFL on their networks and why football is now on Thursday Nights, Sunday Nights and Monday Nights.  It is no longer a Sunday afternoon only game. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

DVR Use Declines As Content Thrives

Like setting the VCR clock, most of us are lazy.  It takes time to seek out show to record when it is much easier to just search and watch as we please.  And as more content is available through streaming and on demand, DVR use seems to be declining.  According to yesterday's Mediapost article, "time-shifted viewing (DVR) declines are at the lowest level in three years."  As more and more content is at our fingertips, it makes sense.  Our need for immediacy makes on demand and streaming a more compelling option. 

To be a DVR user, one must be proactive.  You must actively seek out future times for a show of interest and tell the cable box to record and save it, either as one show or the whole series.  Most don't plan their TV viewing like that anymore, especially millennials.  Instead, we go to our app to stream content or our cable box to access the content via on demand with the intent to watch immediately. Now that we find ourselves with content everywhere, we simply need to get it to watch it.

But as a TV viewer who despises most commercials on live TV, the DVR offers one advantage over on demand and some streaming. I can control the trick features, fast forwarding through ads to get back to the content.  On demand tends to restrict those trick features forcing ads to be shown as we wait for our program to resume. As a DVR user, I am in the minority, but I do love the added control. 

One final point on ads.  A newly discover network by me is Buzzr.  It has acquired the old black and white game shows that GSN once aired.  Shows like I've Got A Secret, What's My Line, and To Tell The Truth.  Even better, Buzzr plays the b&w ads that played with these shows.  Ads like Cool Whip and Toni put a smile on my face.  I DVR these shows and don't fast forward through those ads. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

iPhone 7 Succeeds Through Timing

Analysts concern over the iPhone 7 and the lack of new products coming out of Apple never figured that the new phone could bring real growth.  But given the recent battery problems coming from leading competitor Samsung and its Galaxy smartphones, Apple could gain valuable market share.  Consumers may become worried that their Galaxy phone may explode and cause personal injury.  And airlines are banning the phone from flights for fear that they may lead to fires on board the plane.  And so the consumer next step is to switch phones and why not get the latest iteration this Friday.

Already wireless companies are reporting huge preorders for the iPhone 7.  T-Mobile says that sales are reaching record levels.  Sprint has said that sales are higher.  Apple has told us that they will not release weekend numbers.  Still it looks like the rest of the year for iPhone sales could be very strong. Such news may not have been so likely if not for the Samsung Galaxy issues.  Apple's timing couldn't have been better. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Apple And Self Driving Cars Stall

According to the NY Times, Apple is laying off employees from its self driving car business unit.  As to the full implication of the move, the article offers little.  Still, I don't believe that Apple should be adding car manufacturer to its line of business.  Cars are not phones or computers.  There is much more to the manufacturing process. 

But I do hope that Apple continues to invest in technology that can be licensed to every car manufacturer, from Ford to Tesla.  Whether it is Apple Music in the entertainment system or Siri offering voice recognition and assistance to the driver.  Apple can license its iPad screen to be installed in every car and truck and help GM, Chrysler and others improve their dashboard.  Be a partner, not a competitor to the car industry.

To investors, Apple has indeed become a value stock, not a growth company.  It has yet to surprise us with new technology that drives consumers to rush to purchase.  The Apple Watch, or iWatch as I still prefer to call it, is trying to gain that full appeal, but hasn't yet.  Many doubt that the Series 2 version will cause Holiday sales to explode.  And the consideration to be a car manufacturer strayed to far from its core business.  With its huge cash reserves Apple can buy any company it wants.  If it truly wanted to be in that business, it might have been better to just buy Tesla or Ford, not that I believe they should. 

So good luck Apple, it is now time to really impress us with some important news.  How about an October press conference to reveal some secret new consumer product.  That might just make the stock rise dramatically. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Is Apple Moving Toward A Wireless Future?

The new Apple iPhone removes the headphone jack as it sells its new wireless headphones.  And with one less hole in the iPhone design, we are offered a more water resistant, dust resistant future.  But is there more on the way?  Could Apple be leading us down the path to a completely wireless future with not even a lightening jack to plug into?  Is the next iteration of the iPhone one that has no wires whatsoever and offers us complete wireless charging to power our iPhone and headset battery life?

The dropping of the headphone jack is not a new notion for Apple, five years ago they removed the cd/dvd slot from all macs.  The idea of less holes must have been appealing to lead their engineers to look at the same thing for iPhones.  Likely, the next generation of iPads will also eliminate the headphone jack, too.  Removing these features help to make the units smaller and faster to operate.  And extending battery life has always been of high importance to users.

So back to the headline, is Apple telling us to look for their devices to one day be wire free?  It depends on how they plan to construct a workable wireless charging solution that consumers will embrace.  But it seems clear that a complete wireless product is the next step for the iPhone and iPad product lines. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Apple Offers No Surprises

It gets harder and harder to keep a secret.  The more people that know it, the greater the chance it gets shared.  People love to gossip and it seems inside Apple, people love to share all the things that they are up to. So yesterday's announcement was news that had all been released in the rumor mill.  No surprises.

When Steve Jobs was alive, it seemed that Apple was able to surprise us with new technology, new products, and new features.  There was the "one more thing" that offered a big reveal.  But that has been missing since his death.  No surprises, no big reveal, no new product, no amazing new feature.  Apple continues to excel and consumers are buying.  They are a solid company with a huge user base buying cloud services and apps from the App Store.

And we learned that they have 17 million subscribers to the Apple Music streaming service.  Not a bad source of revenue each month.  With expectations that the service will grow, it is by itself a solid business.  Pandora and Spotify think so.  And that is just one small part of the Apple universe.

Still no surprises from the media conference.  No "one more thing" announcement.  Given how hard it is to keep a secret, it is hard to expect that Apple will ever surprise us.  Leaked pictures, insider scoop, will doom that possibility.  Without Jobs, one wonders if we will ever be surprised by Apple again. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Apple Eliminates The Headphone Jack

Confirmed, the new iPhone 7 will remove the headphone jack and require an adapter to connect the headphone to the iPhone via the lightening port.  So now you can't charge and use your headphone at the same time.  Ideally, it is time to upgrade to a bluetooth enabled headphone.  RIP Headphone Jack!