Editorial: A disappearing computer so big it's invisible

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2017
A week away from WWDC17, there's much anticipation about what Apple might show: new Macs, iPads, a Siri Speaker, future insights on the company's vision for iPhones, Apple TV, Health, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. Yet even before anything is revealed at WWDC, there's already a tremendously vast presence in computing that appears to have gone unnoticed.

Walt Mossberg and the Case of the Disappearing Computer

After a quarter century of writing about the tech industry for the Wall Street Journal and then Recode, Steve Jobs' go-to columnist Walt Mossberg published his last regular piece looking at the future of the industry.

Titled "The Disappearing Computer," it described an apparent lull in the consumer tech world that would soon give way to Ambient Computing, where everything has a computer in it, but nobody really notices because in the future, the experience will be more important than the gadget.

"Soon, after a brief slowdown, the roller coaster will be accelerating faster than ever," Mossberg wrote, "only this time it'll be about actual experiences, with much less emphasis on the way those experiences get made."

A 12 Year Old Time Capsule

The article probably should have been published in 2005. Back then, it was actually true, as Mossberg wrote, that "As I write this, the personal tech world is bursting with possibility, but few new blockbuster, game-changing products are hitting the mainstream. So a strange kind of lull has set in."

In 2005, Apple had been dutifully cranking out iPods for four years, and its latest models were essentially just introducing incrementally larger hard drive capacities. The most interesting thing about Apple's Macs was that the iBook was now being sold in two screen sizes and the more expensive PowerBook was being sold in three, each model slightly faster than the previous year's.

Incremental enhancements to iMacs and PowerMacs were equally boring, and both had reached an apparent silicon pinnacle with the PowerPC G5 processor. Just to underscore how unexciting Apple was in 2005: the company was still selling its bulky Cathode Ray Tube eMac to schools.




The least interesting thing about Apple--at least according to most tech commentators--was that despite a failure to introduce new and exciting product categories, its revenues were taking off. In fiscal 2004 it brought in $8.28 billion, but in 2005 that figure had dramatically jumped to $13.93 billion. But in the capital intensive world of high tech, who cares about money?

The WinTel Lull

Outside of Apple, Windows PCs were chugging along at an even more boring pace. Microsoft had been struggling for years on Longhorn, its own Copland vaporware that was supposed to revolutionize the desktop computer but was being incrementally marginalized by Apple's furious pace of new annual releases of macOS X. Since delivering XP in 2001, Microsoft had shipped 0 significant consumer Windows updates compared to 5 major releases of macOS X in the same five years.

Outside of the Windows lull, Microsoft's Bill Gates had headlined CES each year showing of a series of hardware flops: Microsoft TV, Windows Powered CE devices, Mira Smart Displays, Tablet PC, SPOT watches and Portable Media Center music players. Across all those years, its only real success was Xbox, a product that sold at a loss to protect Windows PC gaming from encroachment by Sony's PlayStation.

On the PC's hardware side, Intel's x86 was limping along with the NetBurst architecture of Pentium 4, which despite being clocked very fast and generating tremendous heat, was not actually getting faster. Intel had also just dumped out its previous flop with Itanium, the result of years of efforts to replace x86 with a more modern, all new processor design.

The once exciting PowerPC alliance between IBM and Motorola--the last major challenge to Intel's x86--had all but whimpered away into obscurity. By 2005 even pedestrian AMD and its more practical alternative to Itanium (Athlon 64, a 64-bit version of Intel's old x86) was looking interesting.

The tech world had slumped into becoming an extremely boring place, stuck in, as Mossberg just wrote, a "strange kind of lull."

And strangely enough, this lull featured all sorts of product announcements, new form features, over-boosted specs and the kind of "idea innovation" that columnists seem to clamor for. Yet none of it appealed to real people. What was selling were old, boring commodity PCs, and of course Apple's incrementally refreshed iPods and Macs.


Escaping 2005's Strange Kind of Lull

Back in 2005, Mossberg's piece would have been retro-prophetic: "just because you're not seeing amazing new consumer tech products" he just wrote, "doesn't mean the tech revolution is stuck or stopped. In fact, it's just pausing to conquer some major new territory. And, if it succeeds, the results could be as big or bigger than the first consumer PCs were in the 1970s, or even the web in the 1990s and smartphones in the first decade of this century."

It was indeed Apple's iPhone that most dramatically ended the mid-2000s slump. But why did Apple deliver the iPhone rather than Microsoft, Intel, AMD, IBM or any of the major phone makers or other consumer device giants of 2005? It was a combination of two invisible forces that many who write about tech seem to like to demonize: profitability and secretive, proprietary investment in the next big thing.Apple didn't "just walk in" with the iPhone. It had spent the previous seven years building mobile Macs and handheld iPods, constantly refining its software technologies and hardware design

Outside of Apple, everyone else was also trying to escape the slump; they were just focused on the profits of the products of the present rather than being able to envision the potential of the future.

Microsoft was furiously working in public to turn Longhorn into a shippable Windows Vista--an effort that included a very public attempt to wipe Google search off the PC desktop.

However, that resulted in a new enemy, as Google rushed to acquire Android and fund an alternative web browser as a strategy for working around Microsoft's PC platform monopoly. Microsoft was so focused on the desktop PC that it failed to capitalize on mobile, which was poised to explode and rapidly outpace the old PC.

At the same time, Google's Android strategy wasn't so brilliantly focused on the futuristic potential of mobile. Like Microsoft, it was conservatively seeking to protect its current business: paid placement search advertising revenues. So while Android eventually helped to erase any remaining interest in Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform, it did not really help Google capitalize on the emerging shift.


Before iPhone, Google's Android plan was a basic Java button phone


It wasn't until more than a decade later (Q3 2016) that Google's revenues from mobile ads began to finally exceed its global PC ad business. And relative to Apple, Google has never materially profited from the massive sales of mobile hardware over the past decade. Like Microsoft, Google remained stuck with a focus on the PC, where it had been making most of its money.

Intel was desperately scrambling for a replacement to Itanium and NetBurst. It found one in its Israeli R&D in the development of the Core microarchitecture, which abandoned the newer but disappointing NetBurst and reverted back to a ten year old P6 microarchitecture first used in the Pentium Pro. Yet Intel was also so focused on making PC chips that it, too, failed to see the potential of mobile.

In contrast, while there was much media excitement for Microsoft, Google and Intel back in 2005--and little more than critical pessimism about Apple's prospects--it was Apple that turned the lull around in the middle of 2000s. The foundation of that turnaround included the ballooning profits from iPods and Macs, but also prescient investment in the future of mobile devices.

Apple didn't "just walk in" with the iPhone. It had spent the previous seven years building mobile Macs and handheld iPods, constantly refining its software technologies and hardware design. The iPhone built upon a merger of the Mac software platform and iPod hardware expertise.

Borrowing from the past to enter the future

The new iPhone also wasn't the only thing Apple was working on. It had been maintaining an internal x86 version of macOS X (derived from Steve Jobs' NeXT, which had been ported to run on x86 back in 1993) as a hedge to IBM dropping the ball with PowerPC.

In 2005, Apple announced that it would be aggressively migrating its entire Mac lineup to Intel's new Core processors, which offered the speed of PowerPC paired with greater power efficiency, the best "performance per watt."

Further, just as Intel had stepped back into the past to break out of its rut with NetBurst, Apple had to revert its Macs back into the 32-bit world of the initial Intel Core chips to progress beyond the already 64-bit design of current PowerPC chips.

The work of converting macOS from the 64-bit PowerPC to a 32-bit Intel Core also prepared Apple for another conversion that would borrow from the past. In the early 1990s, Apple had worked with British PC maker Acorn to turn its desktop ARM RISC chip into an power efficient chip to power the 1994 Newton MessagePad. A decade later, Apple returned to using ARM mobile chips in its iPod line.

After six years of iPods, the ARM architecture had developed into a form potentially capable of running a scaled down macOS, and Apple was now extremely well versed in porting its Mac platform to new architectures, even less capable ones.

This "back to the future" pattern continues to reoccur at Apple, but there's also another time continuum the company regularly bends to its will:

Delaying the future to deliver the present

Rather than being fixated on its past and present business of building desktop PCs, Apple had also been working to deliver what Mossberg described as today's potential future: delivering "actual experiences, with much less emphasis on the way those experiences get made."

Specifically, Apple took what had emerged as the most important app on the PC desktop--the web browser--and began working on how to deliver it without the legacy of the Mac. Internally, this project was called the Safari Pad.

Rather than rushing to market a tablet product that the world might not understand or adopt, Apple instead repackaged its touch-based, scaled-down micro-Mac platform as a phone, and Jobs famously introduced it in 2007 as "a widescreen iPod, a phone, and a breakthrough Internet device."




His audience appeared to cheer more for the familiar idea of a new iPod and a new competitor to other phones, while failing to fully grasp what would actually become the most valuable part of the new iPhone: its ability to work as a networked, mobile computer. If Apple had introduced Safari Pad, the world likely wouldn't have known how to respond at all.

In fact, three years later when Apple did introduce the original iPad--after firmly establishing iPhone as product and iOS as a platform--there was still much skepticism and doubt, and plenty of criticism of the new device being "just a big iPod touch" and "lacking Mac features."

Despite being wildly successful--earning more money for Apple than its parallel and growing Mac sales, and building into an installed base of users four times greater than the Mac itself--there are still people who have decided the iPad is going away or was just a short term fad.

Even Mossberg just wrote that, "Tablets rose like a rocket but have struggled to find an essential place in many people's lives."

"Death is very likely the single best invention of life"

In 2005, Jobs also delivered a powerful commencement speech at Stanford University where he noted, "Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new."

The year prior, had just experienced his own brush with death after being diagnosed with cancer that was initially expected to end his life within 3-6 months. He survived to live another six years, long enough to see Apple's iPods and Macs be eclipsed by sales of iPhones, and for the Safari Pad concept to turn into a device that outsold all the Windows Tablet PCs ever sold in its first year.

Three years later, something happened that Jobs probably wouldn't have predicted: iPhones grew into a larger "Safari Pad" form factor that ate into iPad mini sales, which at the time made up a large number of the surging iPad volumes Apple had been selling at its tablet peak in 2014.

Suddenly Apple began selling significantly fewer iPad minis and massively more iPhone 6 Plus models. The media has bizarrely decried both as problematic: too much of Apple's revenues from from iPhones, and iPad sales are down.

But really, Jobs observation about death also applied to Apple's brand-cannibalism. The new plus-sized iPhone was the new, and iPad minis were the old. Fortunately for Apple, iPhone Plus sales are far more lucrative than iPad minis.

Biggest thing since iPad?

According to Mossberg, "the biggest hardware and software arrival since the iPad in 2010 has been Amazon's Echo voice-controlled intelligent speaker."

That may be true in terms of media-hyping by The Verge and other cheerleaders of Alexa giving the product concept massive mindshare. It's not true in terms of units, revenues or real world impact.

Launched at the end of 2014, Amazon's Echo sold an estimated 2.4 million units in 2015, and 5.2 million units last year. Amazon launched Echo as a home speaker after its failed Fire Phone, which similarly aspired to deliver voice-based features.



Next to iPhone 6, Apple also introduced a device that incorporated its Siri voice assistant. Mossberg could certainly say he thinks Amazon's Echo "delights" or "performs" better than Apple Watch for voice-based tasks, but "the biggest hardware and software arrival since the iPad in 2010" would more accurately be Apple Watch, which IDC noted selling 3.6 million units in a single quarter of its 2015 launch year. Full year sales were four times the units of Amazon Echo.

In February, The Verge itself reported that Apple Watch sold 6 million units in the winter quarter of 2016.

Also note that Apple Watch Average Selling Price is around $400, while the most expensive Amazon Echo model ranges from $140 to $180, and the cheaper Dot costs $50. The revenues of Alexa hardware that so many pundits are crowing about are obviously vastly smaller than Apple Watch, which many have written off as barely worth mentioning. That's insanity.


Source: AboveAvalon

Ambient Computing

Compare the presentation of Amazon's repackaging of its failed Fire Phone initiative into the body of a much cheaper landline box that sells in the low millions to Apple's introduction of Apple Watch as a premium-priced new wearable that sells as an integrated accessory to the iPhone and AirPods.

Bizarrely enough, Mossberg doesn't even mention Apple Watch (or AirPods) anywhere in his article examining the future of "Ambient Computing," which he descries as being where "the technology, the computer inside all these things, will fade into the background."



Under the heading "Wait For It," he describes the coming emergence of "greater and more distributed computing power, new sensors, better networks, smarter voice and visual recognition, and software that's simultaneously more intelligent and more secure," and later says "they won't be in your way, or perhaps even distinguishable as tech devices."

Those words all describe Apple Watch, the "disappearing computer" that doesn't even look like a "tech device." It went on sale back in 2015. AirPods, Apple's second wearable, sold a million units in the last two weeks of 2016. Apple's wearable Ambient Computing devices are so big that many people can't even see them!

There's lots of talk about how Amazon Alexa, or perhaps Google Assistant, provide better or more conversational, contextually aware voice services compared to Apple's Siri. But all of them are cloud based services that can improve on the server end.

Apple's installed base of Siri-supported devices are now greater than 1 billion, including Macs, iOS devices, Apple Watch, AirPods and CarPlay vehicles. Amazon has a few million fixed appliance users, and Google just reported 100 million phones running its voice service. One week before WWDC is a poor time to place bets that Apple isn't going to ever improve Siri. Additionally, Apple's audience is global. Amazon's is mostly limited to the United States.

Smart clients everywhere

More importantly, voice assistance is just one piece in the expanding world of Ambient Computing. Amazon lacks the critical element of a phone business or even a substantial hardware business with a real development platform, while Google has a huge platform of mostly low end phones and very poorly selling wearables.

Apple has not only already sold an integrated ecosystem of devices with a coherent development platform, but is also investing in the same kinds of future mobility technologies that enabled it to leapfrog the industry twelve years ago.


Computer


That includes a custom silicon design team that has vaulted iPhones and iPad Pro ahead of other phones and tablets, and has reached back in time to recycle previous year's high-end chip cores as today's low-power brains for powering wearables like Apple Watch, Apple TV and for enhancing and differentiating products like the new MacBook Pro with its iOS-like Touch Bar and Touch ID.

Even the reports of Apple's development of a "Neural Engine" for accelerating AI is being coached as an attempt to "catch up" with cloud AI of Google and Amazon. But Apple's approach of local hardware acceleration on a smart device is very different from the thin client networked speaker that collects data for Amazon or Google.

Apple's "Neural Engine" is likely related to its ongoing efforts to design a specialized GPU, building on its history of GPGPU with OpenCL, which was then folded into Metal to make it easy for developers to accelerate a variety of specialized math using a parallel-oriented GPU design.

Google's own Tensor Processing Engine for accelerating machine learning tasks is intended for installation in a data center, a very different approach compared to incorporating specialized hardware in a mobile smart client device. Smart devices with powerful brains are Apple's strongest suit, and its latest work appears to indicate that if anyone can deliver real Ambient Computing, it's likely the company that envisioned and mastered mobile Macs, iPods, iPhones, iPod, Watches and AirPods.

And really, that future is already here.
MacProroundaboutnowlostkiwiwatto_cobraStrangeDayspscooter63
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    colinngcolinng Posts: 115member
    I hatched a new pet theory after reading your article. 


    I felt that Walt was a very different writer after Steve passed away. He seemed less enthusiastic about Apple, and less correct about predicting the future in general. It takes years to deal with the grief of losing a friend. But also Steve had an uncanny ability to predict the future. Well, some would say he had that knack because he and his team were busy inventing it! 


    Walt was a friend not just to Steve, but also to Apple. Walt's personality, character, and candour earned him the trust of Steve, and being on the inside scoop definitely helped Walt's career. In turn Walt's publications prevented a lot of unjustified criticism against Apple.


    I am grateful for Walt's well-thought out articles, bold directions, justified and well-tempered criticism, and yes, he absolutely shined during the All Things D conferences where he and Kara really asked some questions I didn't think many journalists would be smart and brave enough to think up, or have empathy and character enough to ask in a way that opened up rather than closed off their interviewee.


    Through Walt we got a peek into how Steve saw the world, and it was interesting to say the least, if not outright enlightening. I'll always remember Walt as the one who asked questions that made Steve's eyes pop, but also tempered the question such that Steve could reply with something very thoughtful. Just one example of how Walt brought out the best in people.


    Tim is different from Steve and has different friends. It is human nature to fear the risk of a different take on a past success, but I think the whole spirit of "Think Different" (as I interpret) means to: reach out to see things from yet a different perspective, gain insight and drop old, even cherished, beliefs that no longer serve us, because we now have a new perspective that has far more predictive power.


    I recognize many great things that Tim has done:

    • where to be open (AI research, owning up to product gaps) and where to double-down on secrecy
    • really pushing for fundamental human rights, working conditions
    • grasping the rare occasion it is necessary to stand up against the establishment (FBI San Bernardino case)
    • pushing for environmental standards (96% renewable energy is nothing to sneeze at - if every company and household did that - we would achieve the "impossible" task and actually reverse climate change). 

     I also watch where he experimented and corrected course:
    • certain "not great fit" hires
    • his experiments on different ways to market Apple products, even down to "do we really have to do a keynote each time? Or shouldn't we give private 1-on-1s to certain trustworthy journalists and Phil?"

    I think Apple is in great shape (although the stress of being coxswain is certainly adding wrinkles to Tim's face).


    Yes, a few cherished people have left Apple, but that doesn't mean the ship is sinking.


    Sometimes people leave to another company that is funding R&D that has far higher risk and far longer ROI timeframe than Apple's governance will allow. And sometimes they come back through acquisitions, with key technologies underlie Apple's NeXT renaissance. 


    In short, Daniel Eran Dilger is right. Apple's best days are ahead of it. They have always made (and will continue to make) a few minor mistakes here and there, and correct them (sometimes blindingly fast, as in iPhone 5c, or culture-fit hires), or they might sink resources on something that ultimately isn't timely for the market (Pippin, Newton, eMate, Safari Pad, iCar) but to such depth that existing products (Mac Pro) get belated makeovers, but they do pick their priorities (iPhone) right that earn the money needed to fund the R&D and acquisitions that matter. 


    Typed with TextBlade
    edited May 2017 MacProcalibaconstangRayz2016napoleon_phoneapartmacseekersteveauloquiturlostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 38
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,379member
    Thanks guys, both great posts above.
    watto_cobrapscooter63cityguide
  • Reply 3 of 38
    nchianchia Posts: 124member
    Not sure the Amazon Echo and Dot comparison to the Watch is apt. From direct hardware sales revenue, Watch wins by four miles. But the Amazon products surely are a gateway to more Amazon sales as opposed to more of an end point with Apple Watch?
  • Reply 4 of 38
    george ligeorge li Posts: 30member
    that old fart Mossberg lost much of his objectivity since he day he left WSJ... it went further downhill when Recode joined force with The Verge... from that point on it's pretty much Whoever pays the ad $$$ gets favorable opinion reviews--- precisely the reason you see so many  thinly veiled Samsung press releases on the Verge site. 
    calimacpluspluslwioleavingthebiggbrucemcmacxpresscornchippatchythepiratejony0colinng
  • Reply 5 of 38
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,630member
    Interesting Steve Jobs return to Apple Developer Conference Address doesn't warrant a mention here?

    Given it still has undelivered predictions very relevant to what could be at WWDC this year or next for iCloud as a way of unifying personal devices into a personal cluster. That will be a big part of the disappearing super computer. 
    radarthekatsteyoun
  • Reply 6 of 38
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,291member
    Apple Watch definitely does not deserve the "double standard" by tech pundits. I own the original Watch, and it is such a beautifully crafted and advanced smartwatch that none of the competitors could compare to it, even until today. Yet, they claimed it to be a failure while overhyping and praising Echo as the biggest thing since iPad. Really? Echo is not a bad product, I get it, but neither is Apple Watch (especially the Gen 2), it certainly does not deserve the bad press.
    edited May 2017 steveaulostkiwiwatto_cobraleavingthebiggStrangeDayscalijony0colinng
  • Reply 7 of 38
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    colinng said:
    I hatched a new pet theory after reading your article. 


    I felt that Walt was a very different writer after Steve passed away. He seemed less enthusiastic about Apple, and less correct about predicting the future in general. It takes years to deal with the grief of losing a friend. But also Steve had an uncanny ability to predict the future. Well, some would say he had that knack because he and his team were busy inventing it! 


    Walt was a friend not just to Steve, but also to Apple. Walt's personality, character, and candour earned him the trust of Steve, and being on the inside scoop definitely helped Walt's career. In turn Walt's publications prevented a lot of unjustified criticism against Apple.


    I am grateful for Walt's well-thought out articles, bold directions, justified and well-tempered criticism, and yes, he absolutely shined during the All Things D conferences where he and Kara really asked some questions I didn't think many journalists would be smart and brave enough to think up, or have empathy and character enough to ask in a way that opened up rather than closed off their interviewee.


    Through Walt we got a peek into how Steve saw the world, and it was interesting to say the least, if not outright enlightening. I'll always remember Walt as the one who asked questions that made Steve's eyes pop, but also tempered the question such that Steve could reply with something very thoughtful. Just one example of how Walt brought out the best in people.


    Tim is different from Steve and has different friends. It is human nature to fear the risk of a different take on a past success, but I think the whole spirit of "Think Different" (as I interpret) means to: reach out to see things from yet a different perspective, gain insight and drop old, even cherished, beliefs that no longer serve us, because we now have a new perspective that has far more predictive power.


    I recognize many great things that Tim has done:

    • where to be open (AI research, owning up to product gaps) and where to double-down on secrecy
    • really pushing for fundamental human rights, working conditions
    • grasping the rare occasion it is necessary to stand up against the establishment (FBI San Bernardino case)
    • pushing for environmental standards (96% renewable energy is nothing to sneeze at - if every company and household did that - we would achieve the "impossible" task and actually reverse climate change). 

     I also watch where he experimented and corrected course:
    • certain "not great fit" hires
    • his experiments on different ways to market Apple products, even down to "do we really have to do a keynote each time? Or shouldn't we give private 1-on-1s to certain trustworthy journalists and Phil?"

    I think Apple is in great shape (although the stress of being coxswain is certainly adding wrinkles to Tim's face).


    Yes, a few cherished people have left Apple, but that doesn't mean the ship is sinking.


    Sometimes people leave to another company that is funding R&D that has far higher risk and far longer ROI timeframe than Apple's governance will allow. And sometimes they come back through acquisitions, with key technologies underlie Apple's NeXT renaissance. 


    In short, Daniel Eran Dilger is right. Apple's best days are ahead of it. They have always made (and will continue to make) a few minor mistakes here and there, and correct them (sometimes blindingly fast, as in iPhone 5c, or culture-fit hires), or they might sink resources on something that ultimately isn't timely for the market (Pippin, Newton, eMate, Safari Pad, iCar) but to such depth that existing products (Mac Pro) get belated makeovers, but they do pick their priorities (iPhone) right that earn the money needed to fund the R&D and acquisitions that matter. 


    Typed with TextBlade
    You should post more often. 
    lostkiwiwatto_cobraradarthekat2old4funroundaboutnowpscooter63steyouncityguidewillcropointcolinng
  • Reply 8 of 38
    lostkiwilostkiwi Posts: 633member
    colinng said:
    I hatched a new pet theory after reading your article. 

    (snip)

    In short, Daniel Eran Dilger is right. Apple's best days are ahead of it. They have always made (and will continue to make) a few minor mistakes here and there, and correct them (sometimes blindingly fast, as in iPhone 5c, or culture-fit hires), or they might sink resources on something that ultimately isn't timely for the market (Pippin, Newton, eMate, Safari Pad, iCar) but to such depth that existing products (Mac Pro) get belated makeovers, but they do pick their priorities (iPhone) right that earn the money needed to fund the R&D and acquisitions that matter. 


    Typed with TextBlade
    What a well thought out & informative post.  
    Thank you.

    P.S. What are you even doing here at AI???  :)
    brakkenwatto_cobraradarthekatmkrewsonpscooter63
  • Reply 9 of 38
    brakkenbrakken Posts: 687member
    The present yet invisible computer is iCloud, I thought. Another great article, Dan! Mossy needs to stop. 
    watto_cobrawillcropoint
  • Reply 10 of 38
    There is no doubt that Apple Watch is a big deal. After a somewhat rocky start (and Nilay Patel of The Verge wrote a really excellent review of the first Apple Watch), the Watch is now a fully functional wrist-computer, with a heavy focus on fitness/health and notifications. 

    But the potential for the Watch is so much more, especially regarding health. Not only as a heart rate monitor (which is already huge), but also in becoming a glucose monitor. However, this is also somewhat problematic for tech journalists: It's much more fun to write about some new gimmicky "killer" feature (like the recent VR fad) than it is to write about diabetes patients and how to help them. In fact, it almost feels like Apple is trying rather hard to keep introducing useful technology in people's lives, while tech journalists try to keep the narrative rather nerdy (articles about tech, written by techies for techies). 

    Let's be real here: The current Apple Watch health functions are already close to being revolutionary and adding a non-invasive glucose monitor function (approved by government health organisations) to the Watch will be a gigantic leap forward. We're talking a health monitor attached to millions of people and with the potential to be reporting health data back to health scientists, with both cardio and glucose data. For many, it will be a life-changing tech improvement, making the introduction of the iPhone look like the presentation of a new toy. We're talking stuff that will save people's lives on a massive scale, both in the present and in the future. 

    At the same time, tech journalists report with true excitement about voice assistants, which only real job is to make the owner buy more stuff from Amazon or gain intel to Google (the biggest advertisement company in the world) - or about smaller bezels on a smartphone. The Apple Watch simply makes companies like Amazon, Samsung and - to a certain extent - Google look like minors, trying to play adults. 

    I hope that tech journalists pick up on this and turn on their brains for this new reality: That consumer technology is transcending into areas previously reserved for very expensive and specialised medical equipment - and probably also other areas previously reserved by expensive and specialised equipment. Oh wait - this has happened before (PC stands for Personal Computer, as opposed to the mainframe that dominated before), but as Apple develops their health products and services, the potential for life changing tech is huge and the impact on people who consider themselves to be computer illiterate will be equally huge. 
    radarthekatHypereality2old4funcaliManyMacsAgo
  • Reply 11 of 38
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 2,048member
    As much as the Apple Watch is a great fitness tracker that doesn't mean that Siri on it is any better than on the phone -- which still sucks.
    Siri probably isn't the best AI on the iPhone now: 

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/21/siri-vs-google-assistant-on-iphone-video-review.html

    hopefully there will be finally some progress at WWDC.

    cali
  • Reply 12 of 38
    "Amazon lacks the critical element of a phone business or even a substantial hardware business with a real development platform, while Google has a huge platform of mostly low end phones and very poorly selling wearables. "

    The trouble with these articles is that they view everything through an Apple lens and struggle to criticise Apple or praise competitors if they operate with a different business model.

    Saying Amazon lacks a phone business is akin to saying Apple can't succeed in phones because it doesn't make its own components or assemble them. Amazon wants to make money from shopping and content not hardware. It's also happy to launch new services, like AWS, that might not make a tonne of cash at first but grow into large units eventually. Some of them will flop, that's fine too if some of your bets pay off. Alexa gives Amazon a new channel for shopping, a means of consuming Amazon's content, a better shopping experience that helps it cut returns costs (the new video version), a hub in the home and reason to invest in an assistant and AI. It's also an "independent" third assistant that can be put into home appliances by brands that are scared off by Google and Apple. Those are not necessarily things Apple cares about but they are Amazon's bread and butter.

    Google's platform may be mostly low-end phones but the low-end phones of today are more capable than the high-end phones of a few years ago. Its primary goal is to sell ads, it doesn't need high-end phones for that. As the article states, mobile is now more than half of its ad revenue. This was an area of weakness a few years ago. Wearables are slow going but for everyone, including Apple. Google won't make money from them until they become mass market once the hardware makers themselves start seeing profits decline. Google, like Amazon, makes a lot of bets and is happy to cut some flops early and stay in others for the long run. Look at what Maps turned into - simple maps to satellite images and street view to navigation and crowd-sourced reviews with the technology in place for AR and autonomous vehicles. Google is comfortably placed to be a big part of the computing-everywhere future, whether it sells a lot of phones or not. It's in your pocket, in your car, in your home either on DT or connected speaker and eventually, I am sure, will be in your ear like Hint or on your face like Glass, but perhaps via kit made by someone else.
    gatorguydewme2old4funMacsplosion
  • Reply 13 of 38
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,379member
    nchia said:
    Not sure the Amazon Echo and Dot comparison to the Watch is apt. From direct hardware sales revenue, Watch wins by four miles. But the Amazon products surely are a gateway to more Amazon sales as opposed to more of an end point with Apple Watch?
    I am not sure the Watch is necessarily an end point, time will tell ... Oh no, did I just say that?  LOL
    radarthekat2old4funcali
  • Reply 14 of 38
    WWDC is not going to be about the iPhone, or iPad, or Mac, or the Apple Watch.

    It better not be!

    WWDC is going to be a referendum on where Apple stands in relation to Google with respect to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

    This is the conversation Google is forcing everyone to have, ready or not. And it's a conversation Apple would rather not have.

    The future isn't the iPhone, or iPad, or the Mac, or Apple Watch, or any iDevice. Google made all those devices irrelevant at I/O 2017.

    The future is AI that is ambient and pervasive.

    And Apple's sole job at WWDC is to convince us that it can remain relevant in that future.

    Note to the Author: Tensor Flow models can run locally on mobile and IoT devices. In fact, Google already runs Tensor Flow on some Android devices. They use it in GBoard for example.
    cali
  • Reply 15 of 38
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,809member
    The title of this article lured me into thinking that this was going to be all about how Apple is leading the charge around ambient computing, AI, an ML - but it appeared to be more about comparing and contrasting Apple's strategies that allowed it to get over the "lull" of the mid-00s and move the bar on personal computing in a pervasively connected world while other major players sort of floundered or struggled with me-too responses to Apple's product releases.

    After thinking about this article some more I've taken on a more sympathetic and understanding realization that what Daniel is describing. This article is really highlighting the different approach that Apple and its thought leaders take to new/emerging technology introduction, nurturing, and deployment compared to say Microsoft, Google, or Amazon. Apple's approach has always been heavily product-centric. For Apple to "promote" a technology they usually embody the technology into a product that they can sell. Of course this is is not exclusively the case since they have more recently started to promote platforms like HomeKit that are not directly tied to an Apple product that customers can put their hands on. Fortunately, cases like HomeKit have been the exception.

    Contrast Apple's predominant product centric technology strategy, and the one that I believe is their most successful, with Microsoft's. Microsoft has constantly been promoting technology for technology's sake for decades. Big announcements, splashy keynotes, fancy developer conferences, and mountains of trade show swag emblazoned with technology logos. But how often does this monumental potential translate into products that end up in customers hands in a meaningful way? Sometimes it does, but too often it simply gets plowed into techno-mulch and replaced by the next big technology. Real customers and end users want products - not potential. Apple's most successful strategies play well into the product centric approach while Microsoft's create a lot of churn. Grandma ain't pining for a new .NET framework.

    Google and Amazon are interesting variations on the theme. I think that Google started out more like Microsoft, pushing technology, but has quickly come around to being more product focused. Amazon at least at the online store level has been more like Apple, selling one massive "product" that is a global shopping service. More recently they (Amazon) have developed Apple-like products like tablets, e-readers, and personal point-of-service speaker-microphones (Echo) that are really just small vehicles that augment and enhance their real primary product, the online store. 

    So what Daniel is describing in great detail are Apple's strategic and stylistic differences to how they promote technology versus the other big players. So far I'd say that Apple has done pretty well and Apple's competitors have noticed and have taken a similar approach at least in part. I fully expect that Apple's upcoming WWDC will continue to show how Apple intends to productize technology rather than to simply talk about it. I'm not looking for any referendums, I'm looking for products.
    2old4funpscooter63
  • Reply 16 of 38
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 2,048member
    WWDC is not going to be about the iPhone, or iPad, or Mac, or the Apple Watch.

    It better not be!

    WWDC is going to be a referendum on where Apple stands in relation to Google with respect to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

    This is the conversation Google is forcing everyone to have, ready or not. And it's a conversation Apple would rather not have.

    The future isn't the iPhone, or iPad, or the Mac, or Apple Watch, or any iDevice. Google made all those devices irrelevant at I/O 2017.

    The future is AI that is ambient and pervasive.

    And Apple's sole job at WWDC is to convince us that it can remain relevant in that future.

    Note to the Author: Tensor Flow models can run locally on mobile and IoT devices. In fact, Google already runs Tensor Flow on some Android devices. They use it in GBoard for example.
    Apple doesn't need a marketing department when there is DED to do that.   Its ironic that he's become his own Donald Trump attacking other Journalists in the Tech industry.  This article comes off as a bit of hit piece on a journalist who is retiring.

    We have been hearing rumors about an Apple HUB/Speaker product for quit a while now that one would expect it to be announced at WWDC.   Over that last year I've read several editorials from DED that discuss how Apple's recent acquisitions will or can be used to create a new or better hub/speaker product that it is only months away.   Hopefully it will finally show up otherwise its going to feel like Vaporware.   Hopefully they go high end with the Siri Speaker and include multiple far field microphones and a better speaker.

    Now without a doubt even if Apple doesn't really do much in AI in the next 5 years they will still be INSANELY PROFITABLE because they have solid products.

    The one thing about the Echo and Echo Dot that I find important is that they can't rely upon a screen like SIRI to serve up web pages when the request really fails.
    I have an echo and love it (not as much as when I first got an iPhone or iPad).    I've thought about buying a watch but to me SIRI is the anchor around all Apple products.
    People will know when a new SIRI is available and works.    Because instead of "Have you tried Siri?    Its a joke".    People will be saying "Have you tried the NEW SIRI.   It's INCREDIBLE"

  • Reply 17 of 38
    gprovidagprovida Posts: 252member
    Generally agree with article albeit HomeKit was missing in discussion.

    This remains a bit of a hobby and a usecase consistent with cost remains elusive. I suspect like Texas roofs, this makes sense for new homes where the cost is incidental, but in my case for lighting, heat, cooling, outlets, video etc., is expensive. 

    I am talking about $3-4K and that is very costly for at the end of the day convenience. When the cost drops below $1K for a small home it may make a lot more sense. 

    pscooter63
  • Reply 18 of 38
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,565member
    k2kw said:
    As much as the Apple Watch is a great fitness tracker that doesn't mean that Siri on it is any better than on the phone -- which still sucks.
    Siri probably isn't the best AI on the iPhone now: 

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/21/siri-vs-google-assistant-on-iphone-video-review.html

    hopefully there will be finally some progress at WWDC.

    AW is far more than a fitness tracker, which means you don't get it. I use it daily for home automation, notifications, weather and info, music, and several times a week for payments. That's a large in-road into my personal computing, all while disguised as a watch or fitness tracker. 
    edited May 2017 patchythepirate
  • Reply 19 of 38
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,565member

    k2kw said:
    WWDC is not going to be about the iPhone, or iPad, or Mac, or the Apple Watch.

    It better not be!

    WWDC is going to be a referendum on where Apple stands in relation to Google with respect to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

    This is the conversation Google is forcing everyone to have, ready or not. And it's a conversation Apple would rather not have.

    The future isn't the iPhone, or iPad, or the Mac, or Apple Watch, or any iDevice. Google made all those devices irrelevant at I/O 2017.

    The future is AI that is ambient and pervasive.

    And Apple's sole job at WWDC is to convince us that it can remain relevant in that future.

    Note to the Author: Tensor Flow models can run locally on mobile and IoT devices. In fact, Google already runs Tensor Flow on some Android devices. They use it in GBoard for example.
    Apple doesn't need a marketing department when there is DED to do that.   Its ironic that he's become his own Donald Trump attacking other Journalists in the Tech industry.  This article comes off as a bit of hit piece on a journalist who is retiring.
    Nonsense. Apple is so poorly understood by most journalists (and i use the term loosely) that there is a very needed niche for DED and PED and the Macalope to fill -- debunking the bullshit. Contrary to your strange claim, It's not an attack to analyze and point out the flaws in the arguments other writers are themselves are putting into the marketplace of ideas. 

    That you reduce down to "apple marketing" just shows either how misguided you are, or that you're a hater with an agenda to push. 
    edited May 2017 calisteyounManyMacsAgopatchythepirate
  • Reply 20 of 38
    FolioFolio Posts: 698member


    Once decades ago I asked CMU’s then emeritus polymath Herbert Simon his view on AI. I expected he might say (like most at the time) it would be a panacea for society’s woes. But he was not as rosy, emphasizing that conflicts of interest, not intelligence, was at the root of many problems.

    Long story short, relating to DED’s insightful piece, it hints at some upcoming conflicts of interest in artificial intelligence. Of course, it’ll be hard to find anything with no AI. But you might imagine AMZN and GOOGL preeminent use of AI will be on server end for corporate interests. Harness power of Deep Mind to say to combine psychology profiles and mine all available databases not just to serve but to take advantage of vulnerabilities and impulses of shoppers. Might consider consumers as ultimate prey, to find and exploit weaknesses and adapt. 

    Apple has a different corporate model where in essence you pay a premium to be protected. Let’s hope smart and more individually oriented agent on devices cuts distraction and works more as personal advocate. We’ll likely have several intel agents, but probably only one trusted general purpose one. So far my bet is more people, as they wise up, will choose Apple’s ambient agent. Triple A rating.


    PS With better intelligent agents on devices it should be easier for busy people to determine that the price per unit when buying a case of smoked brisling sardines at Amazon now is significantly more expensive than when buying a single tin bought off the shelf at Walmart. Not an isolated case. Point: Smarter devices not helpful for AMZN “discount” business model; savvy of them to push AWS, content, echo, stores, etc.

    brucemcpatchythepirate
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