Tag Archives: apple

Stupid, Not Evil

Over the weekend I was catching up on my reading. It’s way too easy to fall behind given the pace at which content – useful content – presents itself into my various methods of listening.

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One theme that popped up several times was that of allegedly evil actions on some company’s part. Maybe it was the revised Facebook Messenger application which seems to be gathering anything and everything about anyone who installs it on their mobile device. Other were highly suspect of Apple’s intentions as it rolls out the Apple Watch which is capable of gathering quite a bit more data than we might care to share about ourselves. I mean do I really want my pulse rate out there?

There were several more but it got me to thinking. Having worked with many clients and companies over the years, could I recall an instance where some nefarious ulterior motive was discussed as products or services were rolled out?

Nope.

That said, I have seen many instances where those sorts of evil intentions could plausibly be ascribed without stretching the facts to suit that scenario.  After all, in my mind a complete lack of care for other people or who one’s actions harm them is what separates good from evil.  But honestly, it’s more likely to be something else: stupidity.

My guess is that in most of the cases where an app or service over reaches there isn’t evil intent.  It is probably just someone being stupid.  They think it’s ok to gather data just because they can or that they might want it at some point.  They may be programmers who think they’re being helpful but haven’t had any supervision from a businessperson.  One key in my mind to great decision-making is to consider the consequences of that decision.  I suspect that thinking never happened.  In other words, stupid.

I’m not naive.  There are evil people out there.  However, before we go crazy calling for the heads of whomever released an app that gathers a lot of seemingly unnecessary information about us and our habits, perhaps we should remember that there are way more stupid people than there are those who are truly evil.  That’s my take.  Yours?

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Is Creepy Dead?

I’ve had beacons on my brain lately.

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I’ll explain what they are and why in a second but they raise a larger question in my mind, which is our topic today:  has the “creepy” factor left us?  Not long ago, the notion of someone, much less some business, tracking our every move and approximating what we’re thinking would be…creepy.  Have we become so immune to the fact that said tracking occurs almost constantly caused us not to even care any more?  Let’s see what you think.

First, why beacons and what are they?  Here is a good explanation:

Beacons are devices that communicate with a shopper’s smartphone in the hopes of improving the in-store shopping experience. When placed in a store, beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones and send them media such as ads, coupons or supplementary product information. They can also be used as point-of-sale systems and to collect information on those consumers — particularly how consumers maneuver through stores.

Who you are, what you’re looking at, where you go and how frequently you shop there are all part of the equation.  Maybe not so awful.  A store with an attentive staff can generally say the same about any regular customer and the information delivered about a product should be more complete than any clerk can remember across hundreds of products.  Many stores use cameras to do just that.  Apple, of course, is in the forefront of this with their iBeacon.  It’s built into every device – iPhone or iPad – sold in the last few years.  They recently deployed the technology in all of their Apple stores:  what they set up uses the Bluetooth technology of the iBeacon to detect where a shopper is within a store so Apple can send location-specific product information to his or her Apple device.  Helpful or creepy?

That’s one example.  Combine the beacon with an app and it becomes simple to send targeted messages to devices.  For example, at a sporting event, you might get messages providing discounts on concessions and merchandise or maybe even seat upgrades if you’re a VIP.  Of course, in the process a lot of information about you is gathered.

So back to the question:  is it creepy or don’t we care?  If we use credit cards, our purchasing habits are known.  If we use an in-store scanner at the supermarket, how we wander the store is recorded along with what we buy even as we’re offered coupons and discounts.  Is the prospect of a better shopping experience worth giving up yet another remnant of our privacy?  Amazon and other retailers know how we wander their virtual stores via click-tracking.  Why should physical outlets be disadvantaged?  More importantly, when the online experience can be mirrored and continued by a retailer’s brick and mortar store, doesn’t the shopper benefit?

I don’t know how many iPhone users know they have this technology in their pockets already.  I don’t know how many people realize what they’re giving up when they opt-in to this technology.  Google has deployed something in newer versions of Android that will allow retailers to bid on serving ads to people conducting product searches and Google can then track the person via their phone to see if they visited the store.  I do feel that many wouldn’t be quite some comfortable if they knew all this.

Are you, or is creepy dead?

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Playing Nice

I had a completely different post written this morning but it’s off in the digital ether.

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It’s gone as a result of a misbehaving computer.  Yes, I save as I go but in a burst of prolific writing I got a lot text on the page in between autosaves and when what I’m about to describe happened, the brilliance I spewed was lost.  The topic was the balance between large audiences as measured by TV ratings vs. buzz as measured by Facebook.   As it turns out, they’re not one and the same.  According to a list published by Facebook the other day, most of the widely discussed shows on their platform don’t have large ratings.  Maybe I’ll come back to that another time.

Instead, I want to spent today dispelling what I’m suddenly finding to be a myth – that Apple stuff “just works.”  Ever since I installed Mountain Lion, my MacBook Air has something called kernel panics every day.  Chrome and the OS aren’t playing nicely, and I’m not the only one having this issue.  In fact, enough people are having it that when you search for “chrome and mountain lion crashing” you get nearly a million search results.  Yes, I’ve tried nearly all of the suggested fixes (as have many others on the product support forums I read) but none of them seem to solve the issue.  Honestly, I (and many others) am not even sure where the issue is.  Apple says it’s Chrome and we should switch to Safari, but other browsers seem to cause crashes including Safari.  Google says it might be Flash or an extension or Apple.  The only thing different is the new OS (which has all the updates installed as well).  Putting aside the walled garden ecosystem discussion for a minute, what I think of a lot is kindergarten.

We all learn very early on in our lives to socialize.  For me it was really around the time I began school (no pre-school 50 years ago!) and the message to “play nice with the other kids” was reinforced by my parents and teachers all the time.  Why the hell can’t that lesson get through the skulls of hardware and software folks?  It’s a good one for the rest of us as well – very few businesses exist on their own.  We process payments, we deal with suppliers, we (hopefully) have customers.  Play nice with the other kids if you want to succeed!

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10 Years After

I was thinking over the weekend about what a very different place the world is going to be from a technical and media perspective in just a few years.  Of course, if you take a few minutes to think back and recall how the world was in 2002, just a decade ago, you’d be missing YouTube, iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, and hybrid cars.  Every one of those things is a daily part of my life and probably yours as well.

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What got me thinking about this was this:

New research from Leichtman Research Group finds that 38% of all U.S. households have at least one television set connected to the internet via a video game system, a Blu-ray player, an Apple TV, a Roku set-top box and/or the TV set itself. This number is up from 30% last year, and 24% from two years ago. Game consoles are the key devices within this category, as 28% of all households have a video game system connected to the web.

I spend some time each week watching Hulu+, Netflix, YouTube, and other services through my Xbox.  That time spent is not incremental to normal TV viewing – it’s content I find more interesting than what’s available.  That behavior ties in with the research:

  • 13% of Netflix subscribers would consider reducing spending on their multichannel video service because of Netflix, down from 21% last year.
  • 16% of all U.S. adults watch full-length TV shows online at least weekly, up from 12% last year.
  • 19% of mobile phone owners watch video on their phones on a weekly basis; while 9% of all U.S. adults watch video on an iPad/tablet.

So I sort of had this flash forward.  If traditional cable boxes become anachronisms, what else goes with them?  I think desktop computers will be history soon, as tablets and other mobile devices access cloud-based services and data.  Even though I have many computers in my home, I spend nearly all my time on a laptop and could very easily transition to a tablet with a keyboard.  Skype and Google Voice could replace my landline and just may shortly.  I’m sure you can add a few legacy technologies/services that need either to pivot or die.

In only 10 years, a lot of our behavior has been changed by a few services and technologies.  In another 10, it will all be different again.  Are you ready?  Is your business?

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Thinking Differently

Apple used the slogan in its advertising “think different” years ago.  Over time, I think we all can appreciate how that mantra, perhaps grammatically incorrect or perhaps not,  has come to be reality in the types of products produced by Apple.  I’ve always admired that much of what Apple produces isn’t original per se – there were mp3 players before the iPod, for example – but Apple manages to take a product sector as it evolves, marry it to better technology, and change everything.

What has me babbling like an Apple fanboy this morning?  A piece of research on TV‘s of course, and a thought about how some research points to the need to think out of the box. Continue reading

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Tire Irons And Mobile Devices

Consider the tire iron.  This device is included in every automobile and is used, obviously, to change tires when there’s a problem.  It’s used to loosen the lug nuts that hold the tire in place and as a lever or handle on the jack to raise and lower the vehicle.  It can also be used with bad intent to kill someone.  So is the tire iron intrinsically an evil thing if it’s used in a manner for which it wasn’t designed?

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There’s an issue floating around now that raises this very question and it may concern you – if you carry a mobile device, it probably does.  It raises a business question as well. Continue reading

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All Fed Up

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

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It’s impossible to work in digital and not to write a bit about Steve Jobs this morning. I have a bit of a different take, as usual, and I want to put Steve in the middle of what’s going on with the demonstrations on Wall Street and elsewhere. You see, I think one of the big lessons Steve taught us is exactly at the root of what has pushed thousands of people into the streets and I’d love to know if you feel the same way.
This isn’t going to be a political diatribe since we don’t do that here. This is about business.  I apologize in advance if it comes across that way.  Then again, maybe you’ve got a guilty conscience? Continue reading

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