(You're reading all posts by Mike Elgan) Mike Elgan writes about technology and culture for a wide variety of publications. Follow Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
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Apple agreed this week to buy Israel-based PrimeSense for $350 million.
Does this mean Apple plans to make its own Kinect? Maybe. But I think Apple may be thinking about something far more interesting.
Yes, Apple maintains a press “blacklist,” a list of people in the media who are shunned and ignored — “punished,” as it were, for “disloyalty.”
“Blacklisted” reporters, editorialists and media personalities are denied access to information, products and events.
Once you’re on the list, it’s almost impossible to get off. (I’ve been on it for more than a decade.)
Here’s what everyone needs to know about Apple’s press “blacklist.”
The smartphone industry is dominated by two companies: Apple and Samsung. Absurdly, Canaccord Genuity recently reported that Apple and Samsung earn 109% of mobile industry profits.
(That impossible percentage results when the losses of competitors are factored in.)
Specifically, the research firm estimates that Apple earns 56% of industry profits and Samsung 53%. (Apple is actually further ahead of Samsung in profits than these numbers show, because some companies count tablet profits and others don’t.)
BlackBerry makes -4% of the profits (that’s negative four percent), Motorola -3%, and Nokia, LG and HTC each had -1%.
They’re weird numbers that don’t add up. But the point is that once again we learn that Apple and Samsung are making nearly all the money, some companies are making zero money and other companies are losing money.
But one of the dominant companies — Samsung — has a creepy approach to business, which is that they steal, cheat and lie apparently because the penalties of being unethical are far less than the rewards.
In the past three years, Apple has dared to be dull.
During Apple’s best years, between 2007 and 2010, Apple introduced the first iPhone and the first iPad, two world-changing products that now define the company (and bring in most of its revenue). These products, along with their touch interfaces and apps stores, were a shock to the industry.
That’s great, Apple. But what have you done for me lately?
Here’s one theory about how Apple works: The company finds a horrible content consumption experience. They figure out how the experience can be made wonderful. They work on the products until they’re ready, both from product quality and price perspectives. Then they ship it and spend the next few years refining and perfecting the original vision.
If that oversimplification about how Apple works is accurate, then Apple isn’t really in full control of when its groundbreaking new products ship. They have to wait for technology, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), or for various industries to come around to making a critical mass of content deals.
In the past three years, every Apple announcement has been preceded by speculation and rumor that Apple would at long last announce an iWatch, an iTV set and other products that would signal a radical new product category for Apple. And every announcement ended in disappointment. Every announcement was about refinement of old products, rather than bold launches of new products.
Will Apple ever enter new markets again, including the ones perennially rumored?
I say they will. The fact that they haven’t shipped the long-rumored iWatch or iTV, for example, makes perfect sense from a readiness perspective.
In fact, I think the next three years will be twice as awesome as the iPhone-iPad years, in the sense that Apple will break into four new businesses. Why? Because the technology and content deals will fall into place during this time.
Here’s what I think is going to happen.
Don’t look now, but kids want iPhones for Christmas. Well, a third of them do, anyway.
A survey of 12- to 17-year-olds conducted by Ebates found that an iPhone tops the wishlist. One third — specifically 32% — of those surveyed want an iPhone. (Some 12% want a Samsung Galaxy phone.)
Ho, ho, hold on a second. Is this a good idea? Should children “own” wireless gadgets?
If not, why not? And if so, which one?
Well, I’m going to tell you.
Apple’s product announcements used to be the most exciting events in technology. Nowadays they’re boring, awkward and cringeworthy.
The prospect of a shiny new Apple TV product makes everyone think of a radical new Apple TV box with crazy new user interface options, or an actual Apple TV set, both of which people have been predicting for years.
And then that Scrooge MG Siegler comes along to say he’s hearing that the Big Apple TV Update has been delayed, and that maybe there will be a minor update to the existing product.
Whether something grander has been delayed or not, I think TV will be the most interesting product at the Tuesday announcement — not because of hardware, but because of a new software interface and new deals I think Apple will announce.
For years, home automation has been the exclusive province of the very rich or extremely technical.
Companies you’ve probably never heard of, such as AMX, Control4, Crestron, Elan, HomeLogic, Colorado vNet, Vantage and Zenpanion have provided the platforms and many of the fundamental products, while integrators took care of the installation and service for many people.
Or, very dedicated and technical DIY enthusiasts have cobbled together their own ingenious solutions.
Recently, the major phone carriers have gotten into the act, and rumors suggest Google, Apple, Microsoft and other consumer electronics companies are working on home automation.
The reason everybody’s jumping is that home automation is in the process of making a transition from “hardly anybody” to “pretty much everybody.” So everybody wants a piece of what will definitely be a massive new industry.
In five years, the majority of homes in the United States are likely to have significant home automation happening in their homes — voice-controlled thermostats, Bluetooth-unlocking door locks, lights on self-learning timers, automated pet feeders, doorbells that ring your phone rather than a bell in the house and much more.
The reason? Kickstarter, mostly.
Apple bought the Google Now-like app Cue this week. The reason has a lot to do with Apple’s strategy to out-Google Google in the coming war over wearable, and also the future of mobile.
Here’s why the Cue acquisition is really going to matter.
FaceTime just keeps getting better. The recent addition of audio calls in iOS 7 is great news, right? Well, sort of.
There are plenty of apps in the App Store that let you make calls over your data connection rather than through the carrier’s phone network.
FaceTime audio calls are great — something that Google+ Hangouts have had for a long time. (Hangouts actually lets you add a voice call to a group video Hangout.) They enable free international calls, for starters. The protocols underlying FaceTime enable high-quality audio calls.
More importantly, they give users one more reason to get into the FaceTime habit.
Unfortunately, FaceTime has a fatal flaw. It’s still — inexplicably — an exclusive phone system for Apple customers to call each other. What kind of phone system is that?