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Week-in-Review: Apple’s shipping a refresh for its worst device, but why?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2019 in Apple, iPod touch, TC, Week in Review | 0 comments

Hello, weekend warriors. This is Week-in-Review where I get hopped up on caffeine and scour the hundred of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week and surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

First, an update on my newsletter last week: I dove into Trump’s Huawei ban and talked about some of the ill effects it could spell for American tech companies caught in the fray. Well, it looks like China is starting to build a list of “unreliable” foreign firms, most likely the partners that are severing ties with Huawei. This might just be a preliminary step, but I’m sure U.S. companies on the list won’t be psyched to be at the frontlines of a massive trade war/ tech cold war…

Onto this week’s topic, which is a new iPod from Apple. There’s really not much to it, it’s an iPod Touch with an A10 chipset, so why do I think this was even vaguely interesting?

Nobody was expecting an update for this device, it hadn’t been updated since 2015 and it remains Apple’s last pocketable mobile device without access to a mobile network. It’s the dumbest device Apple sells — a total anomaly — so why throw it a new refresh? As with every perplexing move that Apple makes lately, it comes down to how the Cupertino giant is acquiring customers and making revenue in 2019.

It doesn’t take much scouring through Apple’s marketing materials to understand who the new iPod Touch is for, the answer hits you in the face, it’s for kids. It’s a starter iPhone.

The company needs to wrench more revenue from high-value users buying their most expensive devices, but that equation doesn’t bode well for the youngest Apple users getting their first device. When the iPod Touch was last refreshed in 2015, the iPhone 6S had just been announced and 2-year carrier contract deals meant you could get your hands on one for $199. That’s not the case anymore.

In 2016, an oft-quoted study declared 10.3-years-old as the average age that kids got their first smartphone, there hasn’t been anything too serious done since then but it’s not unreasonable to suspect that number has gone anywhere but down. Parents are likely already on the fence about taking the plunge on the device that comes even earlier than a smartphone and devices running Android are cheaper and more plentiful. While Apple has maintained the $329 entry price of the iPad, the iPad Mini has jumped in price and the higher-end iPads are more expensive than ever.

The crazy thing is that as Apple and Google’s cloud services are getting more sand-boxed, it’s becoming more and more likely that these first devices could determine what operating system a kid sticks with once they have more of a say in what smartphone they’re getting. Where are their photos stored? What can they play the games they’ve already bought? At a certain point, will higher upfront costs for these entry-level devices hamper iOS growth further down the road?

Shoot me tips or feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
lucas@techcrunch.com

It’s all just an interesting head-scratcher, but more fundamentally while Apple is trying to wrench more cash out of its hardware acolytes, it still can’t afford to shy away from low-cost devices that entice people into high-cost services. In this way its torn between two strategies, and left in this strange evolutionary stage where it has to ensure it doesn’t screw itself over down the road.

Something like Apple Arcade could theoretically be a great sell for parents, games can be played offline and there are none of the pesky in-app purchases, but that only works when the parents aren’t buying a bargain Android tablet in the first place.

We’ll see how much Apple continues to support older hardware with its iOS 13 release Monday, but we’ll also see how much they continue to build out features and products to get kids engaged with Apple and iOS earlier and earlier. Likely with the goal of keeping them away from the cheap stuff that their skyrocketing hardware prices might push them towards.

What to expect at Apple’s WWDC 2019

On to the rest of the week’s news…

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context.

  • Your Uber rating is: go order a Lyft
    Every Uber driver has a horror story and there’s a decent chance that for a lot of Uber drivers those horror stories involve some of the same riders. The company announced this week that they’re just straight-up banning some of the lowest-rated users, though it sounds like you’ll get a few warnings to clean up your act before any action takes place. Previously, drivers have faced potential deactivations if they drop below a 4.6 rating, but there’s no specific word on what the threshold is for unruly riders.
  • RIP: BBM
    This generation of tech giants has been riding high for the better part of the past decade, but it’s important to remember that everything has a way of crumbling. Case in point, Blackberry Messaging officially shut down on Friday. You can read more about the gradual degradation of the once-ubiquitous platform in our story.
  • Google harshes legal weed’s mellow
    Google is chasing after weed smokers and the reefer inclined with its latest announcement that companies can’t sell weed products through their apps if they’re downloaded off the Play Store. The apps will still be able to exist and showcase products, but the apps can’t host a shopping cart for users. The company isn’t leading the way in being a narc, Apple had already banned in-app purchases like these.
  • Leap Motion throws up its hands
    After $94 million in funding, missed opportunities and Apple acquisition offers, Leap Motion is packing its hand-tracking tech away and shipping it to London, after being acquired by UK-based UltraHaptics for a reported $30 million. That number might not sound too awful, but considering Leap Motion’s status as the rising star of the consumer tech world not too long ago, it’s hard to see the exit as anything but a disappointing end for the startup.

PreShow facial recognition

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of awfulness:

  1. Amazon punts taking stance on facial recognition
    [Amazon defeated shareholder’s vote on facial recognition by a wide margin]
  2. Apple gets defensive after Supreme Court ruling:
    [Apple’s new App Store website takes aim at antitrust anti-competitive claims]

NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. TechCrunch’s Kate Clark wrote about Slack’s odd beginnings as a weird little online game studio called Tiny Speck and how some of the young startup’s storied investors weren’t thrilled about its dramatic pivot into enterprise messaging.

The Slack origin story: How a whimsical online game became an enterprise software giant

“With the support of more than $15 million in venture capital funding — all before the game began beta testing — Tiny Speck hired more than 40 employees, wrote hundreds of lines of code and concocted big dreams for its zany, whimsical and absurdist universe.”

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week TechCrunch writers talked a bit about SoftBank, and how to get VCs fighting over your startup idea…

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Foxconn halts some production lines for Huawei phones, according to reports

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in android, Apple, Companies, Donald Trump, Foxconn, Google, Huawei, mobile phones, operating system, president, shenzhen, smart phone, smartphone, Smartphones, TC, telecommunications, United States, Xiaomi | 0 comments

Huawei, the Chinese technology giant whose devices are at the center of a far-reaching trade dispute between the U.S. and Chinese governments, is reducing orders for new phones, according to a report in The South China Morning Post.

According to unnamed sources, the Taiwanese technology manufacturer Foxconn has halted production lines for several Huawei phones after the Shenzhen-based company reduced orders. Foxconn also makes devices for most of the major smart phone vendors including Apple and Xiaomi (in addition to Huawei).

In the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” to protect U.S. networks from foreign technologies, Huawei and several of its affiliates were barred from acquiring technologies from U.S. companies.

The blacklist has impacted multiple lines of Huawei’s business including it handset manufacturing capabilities given the company’s reliance on Google’s Android operating system for its smartphones.

In May, Google reportedly suspended business with Huawei, according to a Reuters report. Last year, Huawei shipped over 200 million handsets and the company had a stated goal to become the world’s largest vendor of smartphones by 2020.

These reports from The South China Morning Post are the clearest indication that the ramifications of the U.S. blacklisting are beginning to be felt across Huawei’s phone business outside of China.

Huawei was already under fire for security concerns, and will be forced to contend with more if it can no longer provide Android updates to global customers.

Contingency planning is already underway at Huawei. The company has built its own Android -based operating system, and can use the stripped down, open source version of Android that ships without Google Mobile Services. For now, its customers also still have access to Google’s app store. But if the company is forced to make developers sell their apps on a siloed Huawei-only store, it could face problems from users outside of China.

Huawei and the Chinese government are also retaliating against the U.S. efforts. The company has filed a legal motion to challenge the U.S. ban on its equipment, calling it “unconstitutional.”  And Huawei has sent home its American employees deployed at R&D functions at its Shenzhen headquarters.

It has also asked its Chinese employees to limit conversations with overseas visitors, and cease any technical meetings with their U.S. contacts.

Still, any reduction in orders would seem to indicate that the U.S. efforts to stymie Huawei’s expansion (at least in its smartphone business) are having an impact.

A spokesperson for Huawei U.S. did not respond to a request for comment.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Apple bumps the App Store cell connection download cap up to 200 MB

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in Apple, iOS, TC | 0 comments

Good news: Apple now allows you to download bigger apps over a cellular connection than it used to.

Bad news: there’s still a cap, and you still can’t bypass it.

As noticed by 9to5Mac, the iOS App Store now lets you download apps up to 200 MB in size while on a cell network; anything bigger than that, and you’ll need to connect to WiFi. Before this change, the cap was 150 MB.

And if you’ve got an unlimited (be it actually unlimited or cough-cough-‘unlimited’) plan, or if you know you’ve got enough monthly data left to cover a big download, or you just really, really need a certain big app and WiFi just isn’t available? You’re still out of luck. That 200 MB cap hits everyone. People have found tricky, fleeting workarounds to bypass the cap over the years, but there’s no official “Yeah, yeah, the app is huge, I know.” button to click or power user setting to toggle.

The App Store being cautious about file size isn’t inherently a bad thing; with many users only getting an allotment of a couple gigs a month, a few accidental downloads over the cell networks can eat up that data quick. But it really does suck to open up an app you need and find it’s requiring some update that exceeds the cap, only to realize you’re nowhere near a friendly WiFi network. At least give us the choice, you know?

On the upside, most developers seem to be pretty aware of the cap; they’ll hack and slash their app install package until it squeaks under the limit, even if it means downloading more stuff through the app itself post-install. Now, at least, they’ve got 50 more megabytes of wiggle room to start with.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Audi self-driving unit taps newcomer Aeva for its unique lidar

Posted by on Apr 17, 2019 in Aeva, Apple, Audi, Automotive, automotive industry, Canaan Partners, Emerging-Technologies, Lidar, lux capital, Nikon, self driving cars, Transportation, Velodyne | 0 comments

Audi’s self-driving unit has tapped a startup with a unique approach to lidar as it ramps up testing in Munich using a fleet of autonomous electric e-tron crossover vehicles.

Audi subsidiary Autonomous Intelligent Driving, or AID, said Wednesday it’s using lidar sensors developed by Aeva, a startup founded just two years ago by veterans of Apple and Nikon.

Aeva, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company started by Soroush Salehian and Mina Rezk, has developed what it describes as “4D lidar” that can measure distance as well as instant velocity without losing range, all while preventing interference from the sun or other sensors. Move past the 4D branding-speak, and the tech is compelling.

Lidar, or light detection and ranging radar, measures distance. It’s considered by many (with Tesla as one exception) in the emerging automated driving industry as a critical and necessary sensor. And for years, that industry has been dominated by Velodyne.

Today, there are dozens of lidar startups that have popped up with promises of technological breakthroughs that will offer lower-cost sensors with better resolution and accuracy than Velodyne. It’s a promise that is fraught with challenges, notably the ability to scale up manufacturing.

Traditional lidar sensors are able to determine distance by sending out high-power pulses of light outside the visible spectrum and then tracking how long it takes for each of those pulses to return. As they come back, the direction of, and distance to, whatever those pulses hit are recorded as a point and eventually forms a 3D map.

Aeva’s sensors emit a continuous low-power laser, which allows them to sense instant velocity of every point in the frame at ranges up to 300 meters, the company says. In other words, Aeva’s sensors can determine distance and direction, as well as speed of the objects coming to or moving away from them.

This is a handy perception feature for autonomous vehicles operating in an environment of objects that travel at different speeds, like pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.

Aeva, backed by investors including Lux Capital and Canaan Partners, says its sensors are also unique because they’re “free” from interference from other sensors or sunlight.

It was this combination of long-range perception, instantaneous velocity measurements at cm/s precision and robustness to interferences that sold AID CTO Alexandre Haag on the Aeva sensors.

Aeva spent the past 18 months going through a validation process with Audi and parent company Volkswagen. This announcement confirms that Aeva has made it past a critical hurdle in Audi’s AV plans. Aeva’s sensors are already on Audi e-tron development vehicles in Munich. The automaker plans to bring autonomous driving to urban mobility services within the next few years.

Interference is possible and can cause a stream of random points on a 3D map if the lidar is pointed directly at the sun or if there are multiple sensors on the same vehicle. Lidar companies have instituted various techniques to prevent interference patterns; autonomous vehicle developers also account for potential interference problems from the sun and snow by creating algorithms to reject these kinds of outliers.

Still, Salehian argues that interference is a significant challenge.

When you talk about the challenge of building to scale and designing for mass scale, it’s not just about how easily they can be manufactured, Salehian contends. “It’s also about having these things work in unison together on a row. So when you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of these cars, that’s a big deal.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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The danger of ‘I already pay for Apple News+’

Posted by on Mar 26, 2019 in Apple, apple news, Apps, eCommerce, Facebook, Media, Mobile, Opinion, TC | 0 comments

Apple doesn’t care about news, it cares about recurring revenue. That’s why publishers are crazy to jump into bed with Apple News+. They’re rendering their own subscription options unnecessary in exchange for a sliver of what Apple pays out from the mere $10 per month it charges for unlimited reading.

The unfathomable platform risk here makes Facebook’s exploitative Instant Articles program seem toothless in comparison. On Facebook, publishers became generic providers of dumb content for the social network’s smart pipe that stole the customer relationship from content creators. But at least publishers were only giving away their free content.

Apple News+ threatens to open a massive hole in news site paywalls, allowing their best premium articles to escape. Publishers hope they’ll get exposure to new audiences. But any potential new or existing direct subscriber to a publisher will no longer be willing to pay a healthy monthly fee to occasionally access that top content while supporting the rest of the newsroom. They’ll just cherry pick what they want via News+, and Apple will shave off a few cents for the publisher while owning all the data, customer relationship, and power.

“Why subscribe to that publisher? I already pay for Apple News+” should be the question haunting journalists’ nightmares. For readers, $10 per month all-you-can-eat from 300-plus publishers sounds like a great deal today. But it could accelerate the demise of some of those outlets, leaving society with fewer watchdogs and storytellers. If publishers agree to the shake hands with the devil, the dark lord will just garner more followers, making its ruinous offer more tempting.

There are so many horrifying aspects of Apple News+ for publishers, it’s best just to list each and break them down.

No relationship with the reader

To succeed, publishers need attention, data, and revenue, and Apple News+ gets in the way of all three. Readers visit Apple’s app, not the outlet’s site that gives it free rein to promote conference tickets, merchandise, research reports, and other money-makers. Publishers don’t get their Apple News+ readers’ email addresses for follow-up marketing, cookies for ad targeting and content personalization, or their credit card info to speed up future purchases.

At the bottom of articles, Apple News+ recommends posts by an outlet’s competitors. Readers end up without a publisher’s bookmark in their browser toolbar, app on their phone, or even easy access to them from News+’s default tab. They won’t see the outlet’s curation that highlights its most important content, or develop a connection with its home screen layout. They’ll miss call outs to follow individual reporters and chances to interact with innovative new interactive formats.

Perhaps worst of all, publishers will be thrown right back into the coliseum of attention. They’ll need to debase their voice and amp up the sensationalism of their headlines or risk their users straying an inch over to someone else. But they’ll have no control of how they’re surfaced…

At the mercy of the algorithm

Which outlets earn money on Apple News+ will be largely determined by what Apple decides to show in those first few curatorial slots on screen. At any time, Apple could decide it wants more visual photo-based content or less serious world news because it placates users even if they’re less informed. It could suddenly preference shorter takes because they keep people from bouncing out of the app, or more generic shallow-dives that won’t scare off casual readers who don’t even care about that outlet. What if Apple signs up a publisher’s biggest competitor and sends them all the attention, decimating the first outlet’s discovery while still exposing its top paywalled content for cheap access?

Remember when Facebook wanted to build the world’s personalized newspaper and delivered tons of referral traffic, then abruptly decided to favor “friends and family content” while leaving publishers to starve? Now outlets are giving Apple News+ the same iron grip on their businesses. They might hire a ton of talent to give Apple what it wants, only for the strategy to change. The Wall Street Journal says it’s hiring 50 staffers to make content specifically for Apple News+. Those sound like some of the most precarious jobs in the business right now.

Remember when Facebook got the WSJ, Guardian, and more to build “social reader apps” and then one day just shut off the virality and then shut down the whole platform? News+ revenue will be a drop in bucket of iPhone sales, and Apple could at any time decide it’s not thirsty any more and let News+ rot. That and the eventual realization of platform risk and loss of relationship with the reader led the majority of Facebook’s Instant Articles launch partners like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Vox to drop the format. Publishers would be wise to come to that same conclusion now before they drive any more eyeballs to News+.

News+ isn’t built for news

Apple acquired the magazine industry’s self-distribution app Texture a year ago. Now it’s trying to cram in traditional text-based news with minimal work to adapt the product. That means National Geographic and Sports Illustrated get featured billing with animated magazine covers and ways to browse the latest ‘issue’. News outlets get demoted far below, with no intuitive or productive way to skim between articles beyond swiping through a chronological stack.

I only see WSJ’s content below My Magazines, a massive At Home feature from Architectural Digest, a random Gadgets & Gear section of magazine articles, another huge call out for the new issue of The Cut plus four pieces inside of it, and one more giant look at Bloomberg’s profile of Dow Chemical. That means those magazines are likely to absorb a ton of taps and engagement time before users even make it to the WSJ, which will then only score few cents per reader.

Magazines often publish big standalone features that don’t need a ton of context. News articles are part of a continuum of information that can be laid out on a publisher’s own site where they have control but not on Apple News+. And to make articles more visually appealing, Apple strips out some of the cross-promotional recirculation, sign-up forms, and commerce opportunities depend on.

Shattered subscriptions

The whole situation feels like the music industry stumbling into the disastrous iTunes download era. Musicians earned solid revenue when someone bought their whole physical album for $16 to listen to the single, then fell in love with the other songs and ended up buying merchandise or concert tickets. Then suddenly, fans could just buy the digital single for $0.99 from iTunes, form a bond with Apple instead of the artist, and the whole music business fell into a depression.

Apple News+’s onerous revenue sharing deal puts publishers in the same pickle. That occasional flagship article that’s a breakout success no longer serves as a tentpole for the rest of the subscription.

Formerly, people would need to pay $30 per month for a WSJ subscription to read that article, with the price covering the research, reporting, and production of the whole newspaper. Readers felt justified paying the price since the got access to the other content, and the WSJ got to keep all the money even if people didn’t read much else or declined to even visit during the month. Now someone can pop in, read the WSJ’s best or most resource-intensive article, and the publisher effectively gets paid a la carte like with an iTunes single. Publishers will be scrounging for a cut of readers’ $10 per month, which will reportedly be divided in half by Apple’s oppressive 50 percent cut, then split between all the publishers someone reads — which will be heavily skewed towards the magazines that get the spotlight.

I’ve already had friends ask why they should keep paying if most of the WSJ is in Apple News along with tons of other publishers for a third of the price. Hardcore business news addicts that want unlimited access to the finance content that’s only available for three days in Apple News+ might keep their WSJ subscription. But anyone just in it for the highlights is likely to stop paying WSJ directly or never start.

I’m personally concerned because TechCrunch has agreed to put its new Extra Crunch $15 per month subscription content inside Apple News+ despite all the warning signs. We’re saving some perks like access to conference calls just for direct Extra Crunch subscribers, and perhaps a taste of EC’s written content might convince people they want the bonus features. But even more likely seems the possibility that readers would balk at paying again for just some extra perks when they already get the rest from Apple News, and many newsrooms aren’t set up to do anything but write articles.

It’s the “good enough” strategy we see across tech products playing out in news. When Instagram first launched Stories, it lacked a ton of Snapchat’s features, but it was good enough and conveniently located where people already spent their time and had their social graph. Snapchat didn’t suddenly lose all its users, but there was little reason for new users to sign up and growth plummetted.

Apple News is pre-loaded on your device, where you already have a credit card set up, and it’s bundled with lots of content, at a cheaper price that most individual news outlets. Even if it doesn’t offer unlimited, permanent access to every WSJ Pro story, Apple News+ will be good enough. And it gets better with each outlet that allies with this Borg.

But this time, good enough won’t just determine which tech giant wins. Apple News+ could decimate the revenue of a fundamental pillar of society we rely on to hold the powerful accountable. Yet to the journalists that surrender their content, Apple will have no accountability.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Apple News+ is a great deal, but what does ‘full access’ really mean?

Posted by on Mar 26, 2019 in Apple, apple news, journalism, Media, TC | 0 comments

Curious whether you should cancel your existing magazine subscription and just subscribe to Apple News+?

Apple certainly seems to believe News+ is an outsized bargain for you. The company’s claim that it would cost users $8,000 to get annual access to the publications they are giving readers for $9.99 per month suggests that they see News+ giving consumers the full value of these publications’ subscriptions.

While it may provide access to most of these publications’ editorial content, due to the curated nature of the platform, it still might be a challenge for you to actually see all of these stories as you scroll and click through the app. News+ is still a great bargain for consumers, but the company has done little to transparently communicate what the service is not.

Apple and individual publications (such as ours) struck their own deals. Terms were dictated in ways that probably made publishers believe that there wouldn’t be much attrition from core subscription products, but little of that matters when consumer perceptions aren’t managed.

Apple doing little to convey what users won’t see when they open the News+ tab is unfortunate, but it’s far more detrimental to publications earnestly looking to expand their user bases, not cannibalize subscriptions. Complicated deal terms don’t make for the prettiest keynote slides, but if consumers are left to make their own assumptions, they’ll likely just assume what Apple has told them is the truth, that they are getting “full access.”

As a subscriber, how are you supposed to know if your pricier Wall Street Journal digital subscription is any different from what is available on News+? Don’t look for fine print on the Apple News+ landing page, don’t look in the app itself, in fact; this information doesn’t seem to be available anywhere in Apple’s communications. The best rundown I’ve seen so far is this newsletter from CNN’s Brian Stelter, which suggests the paper is “trying to have it both ways,” letting News+ users access the full scope of the day’s content through search, though much of it won’t organically surface from Apple’s curation and will only be available for a limited time. Most users signing up for News+ likely won’t realize this.

Though the minutiae of “full access” is somewhat unclear, Apple is better than most at distilling complicated deal terms into something snappy, and I think it’s fair to say that non-print subscribers signing up for News+ will cancel existing subscriptions unless the reasons not to are thrown directly in their face by the publications.

Some are trying to do just that, but it’s not easy to surface caveats in the wake of a major Apple announcement.

The New Yorker’s editor, Michael Luo, laid out some of the differences between what access full subscribers would be getting to the magazine’s content compared to News+ subscribers, and it seems to boil down to the fact that “most” web content isn’t included in the deal alongside, some digital services like crossword puzzles.

A journalist’s thread with a dozen or so retweets won’t achieve the reach that Apple can, and the underlying points embody the frustrations that Apple seemed to implicitly suggest News+ was a total replacement for these publications’ subscriptions when they juxtaposed the massive $8,000 per year slide with the $9.99 monthly price of News+.

While plenty of these publications are seemingly stuck in News+ for the time being thanks to the initial terms of the Texture acquisition (which served as the basis for Apple’s new service), for the sake of securing newcomers with more flexible terms and poaching high-profile holdouts like The New York Times, it seems that Apple should be a bit more transparent to consumers about what all this new news service is and is not.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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What to expect from Apple’s ‘Show Time’ event

Posted by on Mar 22, 2019 in Apple, Apple Media Event 2019, Apple TV, Apps, Entertainment, Media | 0 comments

The biggest surprise about next week’s Apple event may be the fact that the company has anything left to announce. This week, several core pieces of Apple hardware received upgrades, including the iPad Air and mini, iMac and AirPods. Given the company’s rush to get all of that out the door, we don’t expect to see much in the way of new devices at Monday’s event.

Apple sent invites announcing that March 25 will be “Show Time.” The wording was a subtle nod to the “It’s Showtime” invites the company sent for its 2006 Special Event, which saw the announcement of, among other things iTV — an early peek at the product that would launch as Apple TV the following year.

This time out, however, the company is all about the services. Taking center stage will be its long-awaited original content play. Apple couldn’t keep the news fully under wraps as it pumped around $1 billion into content, so we’ve been hearing dribs and drabs over the past year or so (more on that below), including hiring everyone from Oprah to Spielberg.

The service is set to compete with the biggest names in streaming, including Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, along with long-rumored newcomers like Disney. Among the more compelling reports we’ve seen surface so far involve the company helping to sell you other streaming services.

In a sense, it wouldn’t be entirely unlike the current Apple TV model. Reports have the company building a new content store focused on offering bundles with cable services like HBO, Showtime and Starz. Put more simply, Apple may be looking to disrupt cable TV by essentially becoming a cable TV provider. Its tremendous hardware outreach will play a major role in helping it gain a toehold — like Apple Music before it.

As for the original content, it’s not clear whether Apple plans to monetize these shows at all. Instead, reports suggest that it could make them available for free to viewers with an Apple device.

Here are all of the projects that have been revealed so far. Keep in mind that they’re in various stages of development, and, as such, may change dramatically or never see the light of day.

  • “Amazing Stories” — a reboot of the science fiction anthology series executive produced (in both its old and new versions) by Steven Spielberg.
  • “Are You Sleeping?” — a crime show about true crime podcasts, executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and starring Octavia Spencer.
  • “Calls” — an adaptation of a French short-form series emphasizing audio storytelling.
  • “Central Park” — an animated musical comedy from Loren Bouchard (creator of “Bob’s Burger”), as well as Josh Gad and Nora Smith.
  • “Defending Jacob” — a thriller adapted from William Landay’s novel, starring Chris Evans.
  • “Dickinson” — a coming-of-age series about the poet Emily Dickinson, starring Hailee Steinfeld.
  • “For All Mankind” — a space race-themed science fiction series from Ronald D. Moore, who created the acclaimed reboot of “Battlestar Galactica.”
  • “Foundation” — an adaptation of the classic science fiction series by Isaac Asimov, with David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman as showrunners.
  • “Home” — a documentary series about extraordinary homes.
  • “Little America” — an immigrant-themed anthology series showrun by Lee Eisenberg (“The Office”) and Alan Yang (“Master of None”).
  • “Little Voice” — a romantic dramedy executive produced by J.J. Abrams and the creative team behind the “Waitress” musical, Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson.
  • “Losing Earth” — a series based on Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times magazine story and book about the history of climate activism.
  • “Magic Hour” — a mystery series inspired by the real-life story of Hilde Lysiak, executive produced and directed by Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”).
  • “My Glory Was I Had Such Friends” — a series that reunites J.J. Abrams and Jennifer Garner (Garner will star, and both will executive produce), based on the Amy Silverstein memoir of the same name.
  • “Pachinko” — a series based on the Min Jin Lee novel, a multi-generational saga about a Korean family.
  • “See” — a science fiction drama written by Steven Knight (“Peaky Blinders”) and directed by Francis Lawrence (multiple “Hunger Games” sequels).
  • “Shantaram” — A series based on the novel by Gregory David Robert, about a man who escapes from an Australian prison and ends up in Bombay.
  • “Swagger” — a scripted series inspired by basketball star Kevin Durant’s life.
  • “The Morning Show” — a drama about the world of morning TV, starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.
  • “Time Bandits” — a reboot of the cult classic Terry Gilliam film, co-written and directed by Taika Waititi.
  • Untitled Brie Larson series — a show featuring the “Captain Marvel” star, based on the real-life experiences of undercover CIA operative Amaryllis Fox.
  • Untitled Colleen McGuinness series — a comedy series inspired by Curtis Sittenfeld’s short story collection “You Think It, I’ll Say It.”
  • Untitled Damien Chazelle series — not much is known about the content of the series, but the “La La Land” director is expected to write and direct every episode of the first season.
  • Untitled M. Night Shyamalan series — a thriller written by Tony Basgallop, with Shyamalan directing the first episode and executive producing.
  • Untitled Oprah projects — Oprah Winfrey has signed a multi-year partnership to produce original content for Apple, though what kinds of content remains to be seen.
  • Untitled Snoopy series — a short-form series starring Snoopy and focused on STEM, which is part of a larger “Peanuts” deal between Apple and Canadian broadcaster DHX Media.
  • Untitled Richard Gere series — a drama based on the Israeli show “Nevelot.”
  • Untitled Rob McElhenny/Charlie Day series — a comedy from the team behind “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” with McElhenny playing an employee at a video game studio.
  • Untitled Simon Kinberg/David Weil series — a science fiction series co-written by Kinberg, a longtime writer and producer of “X-Men” movies.

That will no doubt monopolize the majority of the event, but Apple could well have some surprises up its sleeve. The leading contender for a second announcement is the company’s long-rumored subscription news service. As with its movie/TV plans, Apple’s reportedly been talking to a number of different publishers to launch what some are referring to as a “Netflix for News,” which would expand on its acquisition of digital magazine app Texture.

Reports have noted, however, that many outlets are less than thrilled about revenue share that would come with the service’s paid tier. Still, some big publishers, including The Wall Street Journal, are said to already be on-board for launch.

A third major rumor finds the company launching a consumer credit card through a partnership with Goldman Sachs. The investment giant’s CEO is reportedly planning to attend the event in order to launch a co-branded card.

Everything kicks off at 10am Pacific on Monday, March 25. TechCrunch will be on-hand to bring you the news as it breaks.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Review: Apple’s new iPad mini continues to be mini

Posted by on Mar 21, 2019 in android, Apple, apple inc, Apple Pencil, Brazil, Hardware, ios 11, ipad, iPads, Portable Media Players, Real Estate, tablet computers, Touchscreens | 0 comments

The iPad mini is super enjoyable to use and is the best size tablet for everything but traditional laptop work. It’s very good and I’m glad Apple updated it.

Using Apple Pencil is aces on the smaller mini, don’t worry about the real estate being an issue if you like to scribble notes or make sketches. It’s going to fall behind a larger iPad for a full time artist but as a portable scratch pad it’s actually far less unwieldy or cumbersome than an iPad Pro or Air will be.

The only caveat? After using the brilliant new Pencil, the old one feels greasy and slippery by comparison, and lacks that flat edge that helps so much when registering against your finger for shading or sketching out curves.

The actual act of drawing is nice and zippy, and features the same latency and responsiveness as the other Pencil-capable models.

The reasoning behind using the old pencil here is likely a result of a combination of design and cost-saving decisions. No flat edge would require a rethink of the magnetic Pencil charging array from the iPad Pro and it is also apparently prohibitively expensive in a way similar to the smart connector. Hence its lack of inclusion on either Air or mini models.

Touch ID feels old and slow when compared to iPad Pro models, but it’s not that bad in a mini where you’re almost always going to be touching and holding it rather than setting it down to begin typing. It still feels like you’re being forced to take an awkward, arbitrary additional action to start using the iPad though. It really puts into perspective how fluidly Face ID and the new gestures work together.

The design of the casing remains nearly identical, making for broad compatibility with old cases and keyboards if you use those with it. The camera has changed positions and the buttons have been moved slightly though, so I would say your mileage may vary if you’re brining old stuff to the table.

The performance of the new mini is absolutely top notch. While it falls behind when compared to the iPad Pro it is exactly the same (I am told, I do not have one to test yet) as the iPad Air. It’s the same on paper though, so I believe it in general and there is apparently no ‘detuning’ or under-clocking happening. This makes the mini a hugely powerful tiny tablet, clearly obliterating anything else in its size class.

The screen is super solid, with great color, nearly no air gap and only lacking tap-to-wake.

That performance comes at a decently chunky price, $399. If you want the best you pay for it.

Last year I took the 12.9” iPad Pro on a business trip to Brazil, with no backup machine of any sort. I wanted to see if I could run TechCrunch from it — from planning to events to editorial and various other multi-disciplinary projects. It worked so well that I never went back and have not opened my MacBook in earnest since. I’ll write that experience up at some point because I think there’s some interesting things to talk about there.

I include that context here because, though the iPad Pro is a whole ass computer and really capable, it is not exactly ‘fun’ to use in non standard ways. That’s where the iPad mini has always shined and continues to do so.

It really is pocketable in a loose jacket or coat. Because the mini is not heavy, it exercises little of the constant torsion and strain on your wrist that a larger iPad does, making it one-handed.

I could go on, but in the end, all that can be said about the iPad mini being “the small iPad” has already been said ad nauseam over the years, beginning with the first round of reviews back in 2012. This really is one of the most obvious choices Apple has in its current iPad lineup. If you want the cheap one, get the cheap one (excuse me, “most affordable” one). And if you want the small one, get the iPad mini.

The rest of the iPads in Apple’s lineup have much more complicated purchasing flow charts — the mini does indeed sell itself.

Back even before we knew for sure that a mini iPad was coming, I wrote about how Apple could define the then very young small tablet market. It did. No other small tablet model has ever made a huge dent on the market, unless you count the swarm of super super crappy Android tablets that people buy in blister packs expecting them to eventually implode as a single hive-mind model.

Here’s how I saw it in 2012:

“To put it bluntly, there is no small tablet market…Two years ago we were talking about the tablet market as a contiguous whole. There was talk about whether anyone would buy the iPad and that others had tried to make consumer tablets and failed. Now, the iPad is a massive success that has yet to be duplicated by any other manufacturer or platform.

But the tablet market isn’t a single ocean, it’s a set of interlocking bodies of water that we’re just beginning to see take shape. And the iPad mini isn’t about competing with the wriggling tadpoles already in the ‘small tablet’ pond, it’s about a big fish extending its dominion.”

Yeah, that’s about right, still.

One huge difference, of course, is that the iPad mini now has the benefit of an enormous amount of additional apps that have been built for iPad in the interim. Apps that provide real, genuine access to content and services on a tablet — something that was absolutely not guaranteed in 2012. How quickly we forget.

In addition to the consumer segment, the iPad mini is also extremely popular in industrial, commercial and medical applications. From charts and patient records to point-of-sale and job site reference, the mini is the perfect size for these kinds of customers. These uses were a major factor in Apple deciding to update the mini.

Though still just as pricey (in comparison) as it was when it was introduced, the iPad mini remains a standout device. It’s small, sleek, now incredibly fast and well provisioned with storage. The smallness is a real advantage in my opinion. It allows the mini to exist as it does without having to take part in the ‘iPad as a replacement for laptops’ debate. It is very clearly not that, while at the same time still feeling more multipurpose and useful than ever. I’m falling in real strong like all over again with the mini, and the addition of Pencil support is the sweetener on top.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Apple ad focuses on iPhone’s most marketable feature — privacy

Posted by on Mar 14, 2019 in Apple, computing, digital media, digital rights, Facebook, Hardware, human rights, identity management, iPhone, law, Mobile, Privacy, TC, terms of service, Tim Cook, United States | 0 comments

Apple is airing a new ad spot in primetime today. Focused on privacy, the spot is visually cued, with no dialog and a simple tagline: Privacy. That’s iPhone.

In a series of humorous vignettes, the message is driven home that sometimes you just want a little privacy. The spot has only one line of text otherwise, and it’s in keeping with Apple’s messaging on privacy over the long and short term. “If privacy matters in your life, it should matter to the phone your life is on.”

The spot will air tonight in primetime in the U.S. and extend through March Madness. It will then air in select other countries.

You’d have to be hiding under a rock not to have noticed Apple positioning privacy as a differentiating factor between itself and other companies. Beginning a few years ago, CEO Tim Cook began taking more and more public stances on what the company felt to be your “rights” to privacy on their platform and how that differed from other companies. The undercurrent being that Apple was able to take this stance because its first-party business relies on a relatively direct relationship with customers who purchase its hardware and, increasingly, its services.

This stands in contrast to the model of other tech giants like Google or Facebook that insert an interstitial layer of monetization strategy on top of that relationship in the forms of application of personal information about you (in somewhat anonymized fashion) to sell their platform to advertisers that in turn can sell to you better.

Turning the ethical high ground into a marketing strategy is not without its pitfalls, though, as Apple has discovered recently with a (now patched) high-profile FaceTime bug that allowed people to turn your phone into a listening device, Facebook’s manipulation of App Store permissions and the revelation that there was some long overdue house cleaning needed in its Enterprise Certificate program.

I did find it interesting that the iconography of the “Private Side” spot very, very closely associates the concepts of privacy and security. They are separate, but interrelated, obviously. This spot says these are one and the same. It’s hard to enforce privacy without security, of course, but in the mind of the public I think there is very little difference between the two.

The App Store itself, of course, still hosts apps from Google and Facebook among thousands of others that use personal data of yours in one form or another. Apple’s argument is that it protects the data you give to your phone aggressively by processing on the device, collecting minimal data, disconnecting that data from the user as much as possible and giving users as transparent a control interface as possible. All true. All far, far better efforts than the competition.

Still, there is room to run, I feel, when it comes to Apple adjudicating what should be considered a societal norm when it comes to the use of personal data on its platform. If it’s going to be the absolute arbiter of what flies on the world’s most profitable application marketplace, it might as well use that power to get a little more feisty with the bigcos (and littlecos) that make their living on our data.

I mention the issues Apple has had above not as a dig, though some might be inclined to view Apple integrating privacy with marketing as boldness bordering on hubris. I, personally, think there’s still a major difference between a company that has situational loss of privacy while having a systemic dedication to privacy and, well, most of the rest of the ecosystem which exists because they operate an “invasion of privacy as a service” business.

Basically, I think stating privacy is your mission is still supportable, even if you have bugs. But attempting to ignore that you host the data platforms that thrive on it is a tasty bit of prestidigitation.

But that might be a little too verbose as a tagline.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Meet the 19 startups in AngelPad’s 12th batch

Posted by on Mar 13, 2019 in Accelerator, Adidas, Amazon, angelpad, Apple, Carine Magescas, caterpillar, citi, Cvent, DroneDeploy, law firms, mopub, New York City, Oscar, periscope data, Pipedrive, Postmates, Real Estate, sephora, Stanford University, Startups, Tesla, thomas korte, twitch, Twitter, Venture Capital, Zum | 0 comments

AngelPad just wrapped the 12th run of its months-long New York City startup accelerator. For the second time, the program didn’t culminate in a demo day; rather, the 19 participating startups were given pre-arranged one-on-one meetings with venture capital investors late last week.

AngelPad co-founders Thomas Korte and Carine Magescas did away with the demo day tradition last year after nearly a decade operating AngelPad, which is responsible for mentoring startups including Postmates, Twitter-acquired Mopub, Pipedrive, Periscope Data, Zum and DroneDeploy.

“Demo days are great ways for accelerators to expose a large number of companies to a lot of investors, but we don’t think it is the most productive way,” Korte told TechCrunch last year. Competing accelerator Y Combinator has purportedly considered their eliminating demo day as well, though sources close to YC deny this. The firm cut its investor day, a similar opportunity for investors to schedule meetings with individual startups, “after analyzing its effectiveness” last year.

Feedback to AngelPad’s choice to forego demo day has been positive, Korte tells TechCrunch, with startup CEOs breathing a sigh of relief they aren’t forced to pitch to a large crowd with no promise of investment.

AngelPad invests $120,000 in each of its companies. Here’s a closer look at its latest batch:

LotSpot is a parking management tool for universities, parks and malls. The company installs cameras at the entrances and exits of customer parking lots and autonomously tracks lot occupancy as cars enter and exit. The LotSpot founders are Stanford University Innovation Fellows with backgrounds in engineering and sales.

Twic is a discretionary benefits management platform that helps businesses offer wellness benefits at a lower cost. The tool assists human resources professionals in selecting vendors, monitoring benefits usage and managing reimbursements with a digital wallet. Twic customers include Twitch and Oscar. The company’s current ARR is $265,000.

Zeal is an enterprise contract automation platform that helps sales teams manage custom routine agreements, like NDAs, independently and efficiently. The startup is currently working on test implementations with Amazon, Citi and Cvent. The founders are attorneys and management consultants who previously led sales and legal strategy at AXIOM.

ChargingLedger works with energy grid operators to optimize electric grid usage with smart charging technology for electric vehicles. The company’s paid pilot program is launching this month.

Piio, focused on SEO, helps companies boost their web presence with technology that optimizes website speed and performance based on user behavior, location, device, platform and connection speed. Currently, Piio is working with JomaShop and e-commerce retailers. Its ARR is $90,000.

Duality.ai is a QA platform for autonomous vehicles. It leverages human testers and simulation environments to accelerate time-to-market for AV sidewalk, cars and trucks. Its founders include engineers and designers from Caterpillar, Pixar and Apple. Its two first beta customers generated an ARR of $100,000.

COMUNITYmade partners with local manufacturers to sell their own brand of premium sneakers made in Los Angeles. The company has attracted brands, including Adidas, for collaborations. The founders are alums of Asics and Toms.

Spacey is a millennial-focused art-buying platform. The company sells limited-edition collections of fine-art prints at affordable prices and offers offline membership experiences, as well as a program for brand ambassadors with large social followings.

LegalPassage saves lawyers time with business process automation software for law firms. The company focuses on litigation, specifically class action and personal injury. The founder is a litigation attorney, former adjunct professor of law at UC Hastings and a past chair of the Family Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Revetize helps local businesses boost revenue by managing reputation, encouraging referrals and increasing repeat business. The startup, headquartered in Utah, has an ARR of $220,000.

House of gigs helps people find short-term work near them, offering “employee-like” services and benefits to those freelancers and gig workers. The startup has 90,000 members. The San Francisco and Berlin-based founders previously worked together at a VC-backed HR startup.

MetaRouter provides fast, flexible and secure data routing. The cloud-based on-prem platform has reached an ARR of $250,000, with customers like HomeDepot and Sephora already signed on.

RamenHero offers a meal kit service for authentic gourmet ramen

RamenHero offers a meal kit for authentic gourmet ramen. The startup launched in 2018 and has roughly 1,700 customers and $125,000 in revenue. The startup’s founder, a serial entrepreneur, graduated from a culinary ramen school in Japan.

ByteRyde is insurance for autonomous vehicles, specifically Tesla Model 3s, taking into account the safety feature of self-driving cars.

Foresite.ai provides commercial real estate investors a real-time platform for data analysis and visualization of location-based trends.

PieSlice is a blockchain-based equity issuance and management platform that helps create fully compliant digital tokens that represent equity in a company. The founder is a former trader and stockbroker turned professional poker player.

Aitivity is a security hardware company that is developing a scalable blockchain algorithm for enterprises, specifically for IoT usage.

SmartAlto, a SaaS platform with $190,000 ARR, nurtures real estate leads. The company pairs agents with digital assistants to help the agents show more homes.

FunnelFox works with sales teams to help them spend less time on customer research, pipeline management and reporting. The AI-enabled platform has reached an ARR of $75,000 with customers including Botify and Paddle.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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