Has Apple lost its mojo, or is something else going on here?

Apple had an event this week where they announced new products.  But it lacked the excitement and wow factor that we have come to expect.  Has Apple lost its mojo, or is something else going on here?

New product announcements from Apple and Google seem less impressive than they used to be.  They seem more evolutionary than revolutionary.

There could be a number of reasons for that.

Product innovation is happening at a faster pace than ever before.  Are we getting so used to that pace that we have higher expectations for innovation than before?

Is the smartphone / tablet field so mature that it is less likely to be the subject of any new revolutionary “wow” or “just one more thing” developments?

Has the prospect for revolutionary development moved from the relatively mature smartphone / tablet field to things like virtual reality, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, drones, self-driving cars, wearables, and the internet of things?   (See Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.)

Many of those are in early days, and we have not yet grasped how they will impact us.  Some, such as AI, are behind the scenes, so while we have the benefit of it, its not something we can hold in our hand. And some are not as personal or multifunctional as a phone or tablet, and may never be something everyone will have.

To put that in perspective, almost everyone has a smartphone or tablet.  But it wasn’t that many years ago that a phone was considered a household or office device that you just made phone calls on – not a personal device that is basically a internet connected computer that performs a myriad of tasks.

We forget that while the ipad, for example, was revolutionary when it came out, there had been several attempts to create tablets earlier.  They failed because they missed the mark on features and useability – in part because the tech had to catch up with the concept.  Like the entertainer who is perceived as an overnight success, but has spent years as a starving artist.

Cross-posted to Slaw

Alphabet – Google restructure – how does it affect us?

The Google re-org announced Monday has the tech press in a huge buzz.  Lots of virtual ink has been spent explaining and analyzing the change.  Essentially, Google created a parent company called Alphabet, left the core business in Google, and created sister companies to Google that will operate some of its other projects, such as the self driving car and smart medical sensing contact lenses.

This change has some sound logic behind it from a business perspective.   There are also interesting side stories, such as how their choice of abc.xyz as a domain for the new company has dramatically increased the sales of .xyz domain names, and perhaps helped end the dominance of the .com TLD.

So what does it mean for the average person?  Not much in the short term. It does, however, mean that they will continue with their “moonshot” programs that could in the long term bring us self driving cars, drone delivery systems, and medical innovations around aging.

It also means that Android will continue to evolve and innovate, and provide some healthy competition to Apple and Microsoft.

Cross-posted to Slaw.

Google search favours mobile friendly sites

Is your website mobile friendly? As of yesterday, Google search ranks mobile friendly sites higher in search results.

This means that if someone does a google search from a mobile device, a site that is mobile friendly will appear higher in the search results than one that is not mobile friendly and would otherwise rank the same.

Given the high and trending higher percentage of time people use phones and tablets for search compared to PC’s, it is increasingly important that web sites be mobile friendly.

You can test a URL for mobile friendliness on this google page. In case you are wondering, Slaw, my elegal blog, and the Harrison Pensa web site all pass the test.

So take the test for your web site, and if it doesn’t pass, talk to your web developer.

Cross posted to Slaw.

Gadget Nirvana

My latest Slaw post:

Apple announced a new iPad mini yesterday as expected, along with upgrades to several other products. Surprisingly, an iPad 4 is now available, just a few short months after the iPad 3 was introduced. Apple is a master of innovation and marketing, and somehow manages to make evolutionary changes to its products seem revolutionary.

But they are not the only game in town.

Microsoft has an event on Oct 25 to launch its Surface tablet, on Oct 26 to launch Windows 8, and on Oct 29 to launch Windows Phone 8. Early reviews show they are solid products. I find these new Microsoft products interesting. The Surface tablet has a lot of features that will make it easier and more seamless to use than an iPad. Corporate IT departments will love them. But iPad users may be slow to switch, as many of the apps we use with the iPad are not yet available. For example, iPad users using apps like pressreader, newsstand or flipboard won’t switch until those are available for Microsoft products.

Not to be outdone, Google also has an event on Oct 29 where it is expected to launch its next generation Nexus smartphone, new tablets, and an update to its latest Jelly Bean software.

For the record, I use Microsoft PC’s, an iPad, and a Google Nexus phone. They are all good products, even though each one has subtle advantages and disadvantages. Each one also has its fans and detractors to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to know how realistic either positive or negative reviews are. For example, there has been some criticism that the Windows 8 surface RT tablet operating system won’t run full office software – just pared down versions. But that is the nature of the tablet beast – and is the same approach taken by Apple and Google.


Google Project Glass

Today’s Slaw post:  

Google just officially announced that they are working on Project Glass – think of it as augmented reality heads up display glasses that works like a smartphone. This concept has been bandied about for a long time, but may be closer than we think.

I’m sure it will take a while before the mainstream legal software vendors will provide compatible software. And for those of us who have avoided glasses through contacts or laser surgery, the thought of wearing glasses again is not compelling. But the contact lens version might take a while longer.

But think of the possibilities.

Face recognition to remind us how we know that person who just said hello.

When giving presentations it could control slide advance, show us the current slide, and include our talk on a teleprompter that would automatically scroll to the speed we are speaking.

What other uses come to mind?


Tablet Wars

That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.  It reads as follows. 

Simon’s post earlier today mentioned the Apple vs Samsung patent lawsuits over tablets and smartphones. The reference to 2001 as prior art is amusing – lets not forget the Star Trek PADD as well. There is actually a Star Trek PADD app for the iPad.

Simon linked to a list of the various lawsuits between Apple and Samsung in various countries. Here is a graphic produced by Reuters that shows patent related suits between mobile manufacturers.

There is market share and a lot of money at stake here. A big reason behind the Google aquisition of Motorola was for its patents. The recent purchase of Nortel patents by a consortium including Apple, Microsoft and RIM for billions of dollars also attests to that.

Many (myself included) believe that smartphones and tablets are causing and will continue to cause revolutionary change in the way we work and go about our lives. Consider the following examples:

United Airlines and Apple announced that the airline will deploy 11,000 iPads for its pilots to replace paper flight manuals with electronic flight bags, or EFBs. This is expected to save 16 million sheets of paper and 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year.

This CNET video lists the top 5 things that the smartphone replaces. MP3 player, personal planner, digital point and shoot camera, portable GPS, alarm clocks. Also video cameras, newspapers, landlines, books.

This All Things D article talks about how iPads are replacing cash registers.


What I’ve learned on Google+ this week

That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.  It reads as follows.

Google+ is the latest social media tool. It will take some time before we know how it will fit in with twitter, facebook and linkedin. Opinions range from it being a nuisance as it is just another thing we need to follow, to being a superior tool that will supplant other social media. But for now its growth rate has been phenomenal – 20 million users in 24 days.

So I thought it would be interesting to look at what I would have learned so far this week from Google+ if that was my only source of information. These are just a small number of selections based on my following of a relatively small number of people (25 at the moment) and without looking at its “Sparks” topical news feeds.

  • The Globe and Mail is running a series this week on facial recognition and privacy that is well worth looking at. (Including a live chat with David Fraser today at 1:00 Eastern)
  • The privacy mess over cancer screening tests lost in the mail.
  • Dress for the job we want.
  • Universities opting out of Access Copyright.
  • Research discovers sugar doesn’t melt, it decomposes – which is a big deal for food scientists.
  • A Wall Street Journal article entitled “As Criminal Laws Proliferate, More are Ensnared” about the alarming increase in number and complexity of US federal laws that are resulting in people getting charged for innocuous things.


Privacy Commissioner finds Google Street contravened privacy laws

That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.  It reads as follows.

There has been a lot of press over the Privacy Commissioner’s decision that the Google Street View collection of information from unprotected wifi signals breached PIPEDA.  See the press release, and the decision.  See examples of press reports by the CBC and  CTV.   The CTV report says that Spanish regulators announced they were filing a lawsuit against Google for the incident, seeking millions in fines.

I know nothing more about this than I read in the press – but I think we need to put Google’s actions in perspective here.  Yes, it should not have collected that data.  And yes, PIPEDA and the privacy laws of other counties were violated.  And yes, it should take steps to ensure something like this won’t happen again.

But when Google realized what it had done, it immediately stopped collecting it, isolated the information, saved it for the sole purpose of allowing investigators to look at it with a promise to destroy it once that was done, alerted the public and privacy authorities, and cooperated freely and frankly with privacy authorities.  Personal information was not released to anyone or used for any improper purpose.  No actual harm occured to anyone.  It was an error, not an intentional flouting of privacy laws.

So despite the fact that inappropriate collection occurred, its reaction was a model of cooperation consistent with its “Do no evil” mantra. 

In my view, attempts by regulators to collect massive fines are misguided.  It in essence punishes for making it public and cooperating, not for the improper collection.  Facing the spectre of fines would make companies want to keep such incidents to themselves – which is not what regulators want.

letter to Google by 10 privacy commissioners

The Canadian Privacy commissioner, and 9 of her colleagues from various countries, sent a joint letter to Google yesterday expressing concern about Google’s rollout of Google Buzz.

The letter says in part:

However, we are increasingly concerned that, too often, the privacy rights of the world’s citizens are being forgotten as Google rolls out new technological applications.  We were disturbed by your recent rollout of the Google Buzz social networking application, which betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms and laws.  Moreover, this was not the first time you have failed to take adequate account of privacy considerations when launching new services. 

Users instantly recognized the threat to their privacy and the security of their personal information, and were understandably outraged. To your credit, Google apologized and moved quickly to stem the damage.

While your company addressed the most privacy-intrusive aspects of Google Buzz in the wake of this public protest and most recently (April 5, 2010) you asked all users to reconfirm their privacy settings, we remain extremely concerned about how a product with such significant privacy issues was launched in the first place.  We would have expected a company of your stature to set a better example.  Launching a product in “beta” form is not a substitute for ensuring that new services comply with fair information principles before they are introduced. 

Ramifications of Google ruling far-reaching

For the London Free Press – March 29, 2010

Read this on Canoe

Three Google executives were convicted of data privacy violations over a video they neither created nor posted.

The international legal community was shocked when four Google executives had criminal charges filed against them in Italy a few years ago. The alleged crime was allowing a video to be posted on Google Video (the precursor to Google acquiring YouTube), which featured kids bullying a boy with Down syndrome.

That shock recently turned to outrage as three of the Google executives were convicted on data privacy violations. Peter Fleischer, David Drummond and George De Los Reyes were acquitted of defamation charges but were given six months suspended jail sentences for the privacy violations. Google product manager Arvind Desikan was acquitted on all charges.

This decision has been highly criticized as it calls into question who ultimately ought to be held accountable for Internet content.

The former information commissioner of the United Kingdom, Richard Thomas, said this case gives privacy laws a “bad name” and that the outcome of the case was “ridiculous.”

David Drummond, one of the convicted executives and chief legal officer at Google, has said he will appeal the decision.

Shortly after Google became aware of the video, the video was taken off the site. The teens from Turin, Italy, who were responsible for creating and posting the video were prosecuted and the video was used as evidence in their criminal proceedings.

Prosecutors in the Google executives’ case claimed Google had “notice” of the video before the police brought it to their attention. The notice was purportedly in the form of comments that had been posted on the website in relation to the video.

Italian prosecutors are pursuing other similar cases against such other huge Internet magnates as eBay, Yahoo, and Facebook.

While the law in Italy has been strictly applied in the Google case, it is still somewhat unclear whether EU law allows for directors of companies to be held personally responsible for what is posted on their websites. Italian laws must comply with EU law.

It does not make sense to have liability for Google on facts such as these, and certainly not findings of personal liability for executives. The company merely provided the forum for the data to be shared – it did not create or share it themselves. And it removed the video once aware of it.

The focus should be on whomever created or posted the video.

The ramifications of this decision are far-reaching. If directors of international companies can be held personally responsible for every last item posted on their websites, this could create a climate of censorship preventing any possibly controversial posts. It is simply impossible to abide by that standard, and impossible for any business to actively monitor or review every post before it goes live.

In addition to taking a critical look at public policy behind Italian privacy laws, EU privacy laws ought to be clarified to explain what constitutes official “notice.” Surely video comments, which would number in the hundreds of thousands a day worldwide, cannot qualify.