Google still wants to be Apple (sort of)

Google Is Buying HTC’s Smartphone Expertise for $1.1 Billion. This, after Google has already bought and sold Motorola. Remember when Microsoft bought part of Nokia?

The problem is that Apple and Samsung are starting to create a duopoly. And though most phones run Android, iPhones are much more profitable. There’s a reason many companies develop for iOS but not Android. A friend at Google years ago bemoaned how much more profitable iPhone owners were compared to those bought Android phones.

With all that being said the Apple launch and comments on this blog have convinced me I’m not going iPhone. I don’t know if I’ll go for an HTC, Motorola or Samsung. But for me a phone is functional, not an accessory. Perhaps that explains some of the psychological reasons that iPhone owners spend so much more money on apps….

America’s age of animated emojis

A few days ago I watched the unveiling of Apple’s new iPhone(s). Honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed…and I probably will stick with a Samsung. Of course, I know that the original iPhone was panned, and it created a whole sector and a lifestyle. We’re a bit jaded.

But this focus on lifestyle in the technology sector made me reflect on Peter Thiel’s techno-pessimism in the late 2000s, which prompted him to write Zero to One. I’m glad that the best and brightest are going to Silicon Valley in the 2010s, and not Wall Street as in the 2000s. They don’t do positive harm in my opinion, while they did in the 2000s by increasing risk and volatility. But Apple and Facebook seem to be about consumption rather than production. They don’t make us more efficient, effective, they don’t change our civilization in its bones.

There are worse places to be, but then I read that China is setting targets and goals in relation to moving from fossil fuels to electric cars. The Chinese make a lot of goals, and execution is often an issue. But they have aspirations. Do we?

Until then, animated emojis….

The passing onto to better things…faster and faster

As many of you know, Apple is doing away with the iPod Shuffle. One curious thing is that I’ve noticed several people buying these devices in the last week through my Amazon referrals. At $50 the price point isn’t high, but it does seem a bit much for an obsolete technology.

Which made me reflect on how quickly technologies become obsolete now. As the few people who read this blog and know me in real life are aware, between 2007 and 2014 I went everywhere with a Shuffle. I always had a backup Shuffle. This is not because I’m an audiophile. I’m not. I listened to podcasts.

Arguably the emergence of smartphones made the Shuffle redundant, but I found that the Shuffle was more portable than a smartphone. Ultimately what made me dump the Shuffle is that I went full d-bag and started doing the bluetooth thing. All of a sudden it didn’t matter where the phone was. I still have a Shuffle, but it’s in a drawer somewhere. Perhaps I have a backup too. I don’t recall.

I probably stuck with the Shuffle longer than most. As an old(er) person I’m reflecting now how fast “ubiquitous” technologies are getting obsolete. Faster and faster.

As a child of the 1980s VCRs were part and parcel of our technological furniture. By the early 2000s VCRs were in decline, with DVD rentals surpassing VHS in 2003. Cassettes were eclipsed by CDs in the early 1990s after a two decade reign, but CDs really didn’t master the space for more than ten years (at least in the USA). DVDs had a similarly short “moment.”

How much more can change though? Some of the transition occurred because smartphones, in particular the iPhone, swallowed up whole sectors (audio and photography). Other changes are due to the utilization of high speed internet for video. We got rid of our television in 2004, and for a while there I felt “out of the loop” on a lot of water cooler conversation. But now television has come to me, as binge watching on Netflix has become common.

What will change next?

Our conversations don’t matter so much

One of the things about being on the internet is your local social and communication network looms really large. Controversies or concerns in your part of the pool seem to take up all your energy and attention. But it’s a big world out there. I’ve been using the internet since 1994, and one of the aspects I’ve observed is how geographically insulated we are. Back then I remember being excited to have an e-mail exchange with a sysadmin in Oxford or a high school student in Quito (real examples). Today my conversations are much more narrowcast. Yet the internet is so much more diverse and there are billions instead of tens of millions conversing every day.

In my case I even have family which lives in a foreign country. Many of them are now my Facebook friends and we “like” each others photos, but that’s about it. There’s not much conversation. I suppose we are busy with life…but the internet perhaps foregrounds in some ways how little we have in common, because we can’t even be bothered to talk.

I’ve collected Google Analytics for the main Gene Expression domain since 2006. Below are the top ten nations in terms of accesses (the USA is 60% in 2007 and 50% in 2017, to give you a sense that the proportions haven’t changed much.

Top countries of origin for GNXP.com accesses by year
2017     2007
USA USA
UK Canada
Canada UK
Australia Australia
India Germany
Germany India
France Sweden
Sweden Finland
Japan Ireland
Netherlands France

There are many conversations out there happening in other languages and nations. I do wondre what they are.