“Percentage wise, it is 100% easier not to do things than to do them, and so much fun not to do them — especially when you were supposed to do them. In terms of instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin.”—John Mulaney (via maxistentialist)
Natasha Lomas on how the numbers are shaping up so far in the gaming console space:
The thing is neither of these new generation console flagships is selling very well when compared with previous generations of flagship consoles. The console market appears to be shrinking significantly — and that’s evidently having a knock-on impact on games studios and game development.
At this relatively early stage the new generation stacks up as follows: Wii U at 6 million, XB1 at ~4 million and PS4 at 6 million: a total of ~16 million. So only around 244 million to go — just to perform as well as the last generation. But with game budgets increasing a flat console market isn’t a good thing. This new generation needs to be outselling the last, not looking like it’s going to have a really tough time shipping the same.
Dave Itzkoff on a possible end for Downton Abbey as the show ramps up product of season five (warning: there are spoilers in the article itself if you’re not caught up):
Mr. Fellowes has also noticed that American serials like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” have tended to run about five to seven seasons before reaching their natural conclusions. Asked if he was starting to contemplate an end game for “Downton Abbey,” Mr. Fellowes said, “I think you have to.”
“It’s not like a soap opera that can go on for 27 years,” he added.
Mr. Neame said he would like “to eventually end the show just before people want us to.” He added, “We won’t be around for 10 years, and we’re doing Year 5 now. So we’re going to be somewhere between 5 and 10.”
Nothing good lasts forever. And if it did, it would probably cease being good early on in that span. I’m guessing Downton Abbey will also end after about seven seasons.
I'm surprised that the press is not reading Mark Penn's new job as Chief of Strategy as anything other then the isolation room before the exit. It's a pretty common way of firing high level execs without firing them. What do you think?
Lots of good nuggets from Dina Bass, Beth Jinks and Peter Burrows on the end of the Steve Ballmer tenure at Microsoft:
Several directors and co-founder and then-Chairman Bill Gates — Ballmer’s longtime friend and advocate — initially balked at the move into making smartphones, according to people familiar with the situation. So, at first, did Nadella, signaling his position in a straw poll to gauge executives’ reaction to the deal. Nadella later changed his mind.
Strike 1. And in other words, Nadella was against it before he was for it. We’ll see how that ends up playing out now that he’s the man…
Ballmer was so loud that day in June his shouts could be heard outside the conference room, people with knowledge of the matter said. He’d just been told the board didn’t back his plan to acquire two Nokia units, according to people with knowledge of the meeting. He later got most of what he wanted, with the board signing off on a $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia’s mobile-phone business, but by then the damage was done.
Strike 2. But:
The tablet Microsoft finally came out with in October 2012, the Surface, was a dud. Windows 8, with a touch-based design, was released to mixed reviews. The smartphone operating system, Windows Phone, wasn’t a hit either — but Ballmer remained committed to it. A deadline was looming that would result in one of his last rolls of the dice.
Nokia made about 80 percent of handsets using Windows Phone, and the arrangement was set to expire in February 2014. Nokia had been dropping hints it might start making devices to run on Google’s Android platform. Ballmer needed a way to keep Nokia in Microsoft’s world.
Hard to see what other choice Ballmer had. Without Nokia, Windows Phone was effectively finished. Instead, Ballmer was. He struck out.
One more thing:
As Microsoft continued to lag behind rivals, some directors grew more unhappy. Ballmer had introduced Mulally as part of the company’s succession planning, and those on the board looking for ways to move Ballmer out talked in July about hiring the Ford CEO as a way to persuade the CEO to step down. In August, Ballmer, 57, announced he would retire, earlier than planned.
Interesting that it was Ballmer who ushered Mulally into the Microsoft mix, effectively sealing his fate…
Apple under Jobs was a roller coaster, but Cook’s operations fief was orderly and disciplined. Cook knew every detail in every step of the operations processes. Weekly operations meetings could last five to six hours as he ground through every single item. His subordinates soon learned to plan for meetings with him as if they were cramming for an exam. Even a small miss of a couple of hundred units was examined closely. “Your numbers,” one planner recalled him saying flatly, “make me want to jump out that window over there.”
Cook had made a particular point of tackling Apple’s monstrous inventory, which he considered fundamentally evil. He called himself the “Attila the Hun of inventory.”
Meetings with Cook could be terrifying. He exuded a Zenlike calm and didn’t waste words. “Talk about your numbers. Put your spreadsheet up,” he’d say as he nursed a Mountain Dew. (Some staffers wondered why he wasn’t bouncing off the walls from the caffeine.) When Cook turned the spotlight on someone, he hammered them with questions until he was satisfied. “Why is that?” “What do you mean?” “I don’t understand. Why are you not making it clear?” He was known to ask the same exact question 10 times in a row.
No one questions that Tim Cook’s leadership is vastly different from that of Steve Jobs. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s any easier to work for. This paints him as demanding, but in different ways.
“My brother is an asshole. What you don’t know about him is that he’s worked on classified stuff. His life was a complete blank for a while. You’re not going to be able to get to him. He’ll deny everything. He’ll never admit to starting Bitcoin.”—
Samsung gave ABC smartphones to use during the broadcast and was promised its devices would get airtime, these people said. At least one of the product plugs was planned: during the “red carpet” preshow, ABC ran a clip of six aspiring young filmmakers touring Disney Studios. The group were seen in the video using Samsung devices.
The origin of the “selfie” shot was a little different. Ms. DeGeneres, in the days leading up to the broadcast, decided she wanted to take “selfies” during the show and ABC suggested she use a Samsung since it was a sponsor, another person familiar with the matter said.
During rehearsals Samsung executives trained Ms. DeGeneres on how to use the Samsung Galaxy, two people familiar with the matter said.
And the kicker:
The Samsung stunt didn’t come off without a hitch: many people were quick to note on Twitter that the Oscar host was also tweeting during the evening with rival Apple’s iPhone.
Yet a startup called Rebump has found a way to make email even worse. How is that possible, you ask.? Well, Rebump is a service that automatically re-pings people — via email, of course — that haven’t answered your original message. It will keep doing so until you get a response.
Note that this implies that your initial email was both worth reading, and worth replying to. In reality most email fails both tests. So, Rebump is essentially a brilliantly passive aggressive way to force people into responding to you, or the flood of notes will not fucking stop.
Finally, someone has created my worst nightmare in startup form.
Regarding the Oscars (I have family that have worked on that and shows of the like for many years) - the thing to remember about all of these shows is ratings. Just like American Idol, Real Housewives, and Fox News: the objective is to drive views and advertising. Handing out statues is just a secondary goal. The primary goal is viewing marketshare. Do you think the show succeeded in doing that?
It’s a fair and good point. And yes, it was insanely successful in that regard. I’m simply talking about my personal preference, of course. I worry about the Oscars becoming yet another award show I just refuse to watch.
I hate almost all awards shows.1 The one exception has always been the Academy Awards.
I’ve watched the Oscars every year for as long as I can remember. To those who know me as a movie buff, this shouldn’t be surprising. Still, I can’t stand the Golden Globes or that various other pageants you can find on random television stations during awards season. But the Academy Awards always seemed special to me. Beyond reproach.
But I fear I’m starting to lose that loving feeling.
Microsoft’s Corp.’s newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, in an effort to reignite growth, is shuffling management and putting former political operative Mark Penn in the new role of chief strategy officer, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Do you think Apple is providing the touch screens, wiring harnesses, etc. for CarPlay? I can't imagine they'd leave something like the touch experience or screen resolution to a car manufacturer. I have a hard time believing this is just a software solution.
It’s a good question — it seems that no, they’re not. As you can see here, companies like Mercedes are not only leaving these screens open for use with their own systems, they’re also leaving them open to Android in the future (though details aren’t clear there).
All of this sort of led to my reference to the Rokr. We’ll see how well Apple likes playing on other’s hardware. They do it a bit with the Apple TV, but as you note, this is someone else’s touchscreen.
Jeff Bercovici sat down with Gawker’s Nick Denton in an interview for Playboy:
PLAYBOY: Speaking of the establishment, what will The New York Times look like in 10 years? Will it exist? Will the Sulzberger family still own it, or will they have sold it, perhaps to Michael Bloomberg?
DENTON: The New York Times will exist. Someone else will own it. Most families, the more generations they are from the original founder, the more fragmented the ownership, and eventually the nephews, grandnieces and great-great-grandchildren want their money now. They’d rather take the purchase price than zero dividends. I think the Times has bottomed out, and now, even though the signs are mixed, it will be able to put on more in digital revenue than it loses in print. Or I hope so, because I like the Times. There should be at least one or two survivors. Even when a major disaster kills most life on earth, usually a few species survive. Dinosaurs survived and became birds. Maybe that’s the future of The New York Times: It will be the survivor of the dinosaurs, the little tweeting thing you see flying around.
Stewart Brand, who personified the link between San Francisco’s 60s flower power and the emerging technological hub of Silicon Valley, lives on a houseboat in Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge. He is watching with pleasure as the tech boom enfolds San Francisco. Now 75, Brand came to the Bay Area in 1956 and became famous for publishing the counter-cultural bible the Whole Earth Catalog which recommended the tools, technology and attitudes hippies would need to advance themselves and society as a whole.
As Brand sees it, history is being made again in the city. There is the suburban version of Bay Area cyber-business and there is a new urban version being created in San Francisco. “Market Street has been this sleepy dead street for a long time,” says Brand, referring to the thoroughfare that bounds Soma. “Well, it is lively and exciting again now, thanks to the tech guys… A creative form is a creative form.” Brand is convinced that the injection of so many young people with technical skills, money to play with and no family ties will spawn new ideas in San Francisco, a well-heeled, much needed creative renaissance.
He has little sympathy for those displaced along the way. San Francisco is a small corner of the Bay Area, he points out, and the rest still has significant economic diversity. Even if San Francisco becomes a Manhattan-like redoubt of the rich, the area as a whole will see benefits. “One side effect of this may well be that Oakland, which is pretty damn interesting, becomes even more interesting.”
First of all, he’s exactly right about Market Street. I was walking down it myself a few weeks back and could not believe how much it has transformed in just a few short years. And I’m not sure anyone can argue that it has transformed for the worse.
Second, the notion of Oakland fascinates me. It’s so close to San Francisco, and it’s connected via public transportation, yet few people I know ever seem to go there. This has to change as San Francisco continues to change. I suspect we’ll hear a lot more of the “Oakland is our Brooklyn” talk in the coming years.
Advice, like fruit, is best when it’s fresh. But advice quickly decays, and 15 year-old advice is bound to be radioactive. Sharing a life experience is one thing (grandparents are great at this – listen to them!), but advice is another thing. Don’t give advice about things you used to know. Just because you did something a long time ago doesn’t mean you’re qualified to talk about it today.
Think you’ll get a good answer from a 30 year old telling you what it’s like to be 15? Or a 20 year old remembering what it’s like to be 5? Shit, I’m about to turn 40, and all I remember about being 25 is that I wasn’t 26. How clearly do you really remember anything from 15 years ago? And how many of those memories are actually marred by time and current experiences? How many of those things really happened the way you recall them today?
This is so true. Experience matters. But only so far as your experience is relevant in some way. You may think it is. But that’s not a given.
Ryan Knutson and Shalini Ramachandran on the “WifiForward” coalition:
Last year, mobile users in North America consumed an average of about 1.4 gigabytes of data a month, and that number is expected to grow to 9 gigabytes a month by 2018, according to Cisco Systems Inc.
Even more growth is expected over Wi-Fi. About 57% of all mobile data traffic in North America is currently carried by Wi-Fi, and by 2018 that figure is expected to increase to 64%, according to Cisco. All that data congests Wi-Fi networks, too, one of the reasons why WifiForward wants to free up more spectrum.
Did not realize the Wi-Fi numbers were so high — and rising.
Thomas Lee and David R. Baker reporting on some of the potential spaces Apple is exploring for new products:
Holman’s role in Apple’s medical ambitions is particularly intriguing because of his pioneering audio work in movies. As corporate technical director at Lucasfilm, Holman developed revolutionary THX technology that consistently reproduces high-quality sound in movie theaters and homes that most closely matches the original audio mix of films.
Though Apple has never confirmed it, the company hired Holman in 2011 to “provide audio direction,” according to his LinkedIn profile. At the time, observers assumed Holman would focus his efforts on boosting the audio quality of MacBooks and iPhones.
But under Holman, Apple is exploring ways to measure noise “turbulence” as it applies to blood flow. The company wants to develop software and sensors that can predict heart attacks by identifying the sound blood makes as it tries to move through an artery clogged with plaque, the source said.
The “Apple Car” rumors are sexy, but something like this has the potential to be massive and much more important. And it once again likely points to Apple thinking about wearables as a business far beyond a watch face that can display push notifications.
Like their previous collaboration, Qplay involves a box that plugs into a TV — a tiny $49 box this time, looking a bit like a skinny USB hard drive — and a service that helps you find stuff to watch. But instead of tapping broadcast TV, Qplay sifts through free videos available on the Internet, using social cues to find specific videos. And rather than giving you anything akin to TiVo’s iconic, peanut-shaped remote control, it lets you control your experience using an iPad app. You can watch videos on either the TV or the tablet.
Qplay aims to provide you with videos of interest without ever forcing you to hunt down a specific video. It organizes them into something it calls a Q — a continuous stream of items on a particular theme, which it strings together no matter where it found them. As Flipboard does with text content, Qplay gets some of these feeds by scanning Twitter accounts: For instance, there’s a Q made up of all the videos The Verge has tweeted, presumably making for good watching for tech enthusiasts. As you watch videos and tap the Like icon, the app uses that feedback to help it refine what it shows you.
To say a lot of folks have tried (and failed) to nail this experience would be an understatement. But I do believe they keep trying because there is something there. It’s no longer that the web lacks good video content — there is now plenty go great content — but the presentation still lags far behind the lean-back experience of television. So I think Qplay is aiming in the right direction.
Having to constantly think about what you want to watch next in all but the most lightweight way (changing the channel) in a non-starter. As is using your entire tablet screen to show content, meaning you can’t do anything else. The river of curated content streamed to your television seems like the right approach as long as the curation is truly excellent. In a way, HBO is simply the best curator in the world right now. The question is when that world changes.
“The 777-FILM numbers will no longer be in service in the near future,” intones a man with a voice decidedly scrawnier in timbre than Mr. Moviefone’s. “To buy tickets and for all of your showtime information please download the free Moviefone app on your smartphone or iPad.”
Russ Leatherman, a founder of Moviefone who provided the famous greeting, left the company last November.
The automated telephone service — once so popular that it was lampooned on “Seinfeld” — will be disconnected in about a month, before a planned reintroduction of the Moviefone brand by AOL and BermanBraun, a web and television company.
End of an era. Amazing that AOL paid $388 million for this company in 1999 and now they view it as essentially worthless just 15 years later.