Part One: Turkmenbashi: The Dictator Who Declared Himself Jesus

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    In Episode 53, Robert is joined by David Bell to discuss a man who was, at one point, the most powerful lunatic on planet earth and absolute ruler of a nation of five million people, Saparmurat Niyazov who was the dictator of Turkmenistan.

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    Part One: Turkmenbashi: The Dictator Who Declared Himself Jesus

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    Give yourself a bedtime

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    Give yourself a bedtime

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    How to Spend Less Time on Email

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    Email can expand to fill all available space. One Before Breakfast listener writes in with an inbox strategy that has helped her do better work for her clients without getting burned out.

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    079 | By George

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    Some folks create things that are difficult to believe. Today’s tour features two such tales. Just remember: seeing isn’t always necessary for believing.

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    IoT, AR and AI are Found Revolutionizing the World of Mobile Apps

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    IoT, AR and AI are Found Revolutionizing the World of Mobile Apps

    Used creatively in hitherto unheard of sectors, the Internet of Things (IoT) shows no sign of slowing down especially in the mobile app realm. As never before in time — it’s ubiquitous. You can explore the Android or Apple store all by yourself. Whether it’s about booking a cab or ordering some food, making a purchase — mobile apps are considered no less than a wallet.

    Not thinking big enough is not due to lack of imagination; it’s because of the pure lack of observation. Determine in your life — to keep the future within sight — so that you don’t have to keep thinking upon what’s coming up next.

    IoT app development is no longer a buzz-word; it means a subsequent demand for mobile apps for such type of devices seems to ride a wave day in day out. Right from energy to healthcare, retail manufacturing, agriculture — endless real-life IoT implementations can be found. In a nutshell, we all seem to be heading towards smart retail, connected cars, wearable devices, smart cities, etc.

    Physical devices connected to the internet and the usage of smartphones seems to gain popularity in no time. It may quite interest you to know that one can have complete control over their features that are offered by these gadgets.

    Have you wondered why mobile apps are found in widespread adoption? It’s because they work as dedicated digital assistants for the users. A variety of pieces of information is collected to give custom responses to the end users. This is the information that is generated during customer usage. Each usage has interactions or commands that are being used with the apps. Because of the data, the apps are becoming smarter and their responses tend to become more accurate.

    In fact, it can leverage real-time data and location-based services to deliver an enhanced personalized experience.

    Right from personal and professional lives, the roots of IoT and mobile apps have given its Midas touch like never before. IoT allows developers to complete building an app in much less time, saving them significantly on the efforts involved. It may quite interest you to know that with the help of IoT several innovative and more engaging features in the app.

    As the point says IoT in mobile app development can lead to higher efficiency and better utilization of resources. This integration will automate several processes offering a unique way to smarter homes and smarter cities. Mobile strategies powered by IoT can ensure to free up a good part of employee bandwidth. This is indeed a win-win situation where more attention be given to core tasks. For example, the remarkable results of this collaboration can be witnessed in the manufacturing and supply chain operations.

    Future of mobile apps will always be revolving around connected devices. Like it or not but in case of absence of connectivity, apps will lose the interest of users and hit a dead end. As a result, mobile app developers are striving to come up with future-proof apps. Smart devices are no longer a luxury, so think of something different to increase user adoption.

    Using an app means it keeps on collecting ample of information regularly. Moreover, this is how it provides personalized responses and recommendations. At the same time, it also raises concern about user privacy and security of data. Many of you have this misconception that mobile apps pose a high likelihood of data breach. Unfortunately, attacks cannot be denied, but as a professional, you can definitely work on your defense. With the help of IoT systems, you can come up with an additional active layer of safety. In the end, data continues to stay protected- all thanks to data encryption and multiple entry points.

    1. Wearables — Bluetooth, Wifi used to connect devices like watches, eyeglasses and even bands to your mobile phones. With IoT any form of data, starting from information to videos, audios, images can be exchanged between two devices.

    2. Healthcare — The urge for Home-based medical devices is on the rise. Thanks to mobile apps powered by the Internet of Things this is becoming a reality. Technically speaking, medical devices are connected to servers where professionals can receive health data from the patient via a mobile app.

    Further, this crucial data can be moved remotely to the relevant doctor. As a result, the need to visit the hospital for minor issues is substantially reduced. Managing chronic diseases, monitoring clinical conditions, assisted living, wellness monitoring and preventive measures are some of the common IoT solutions in healthcare.

    3. Retail — RFID inventory tracking chips, Wi-Fi tracking system, and digital signage are all part of the tech systems now. In simple words, these sensors receive relevant data that are then transferred to mobile apps. Businesses can proactively into the customer’s needs depending on the time and place.

    IoT tech is about a decade into the digital revolution; businesses are still found struggling issues related to disruptive technologies. The extreme level of connectivity of devices creates concerns regarding security and privacy. Remember to put additional security measures and maximize response time and efficiency.

    #1 Adhere to license agreement — Make sure that each of your equipment is original or get it conformed to different license agreement strictly. Basically, businesses have to ensure that they are duly aware of these terms and adhere to them.

    #2 Connectivity — Of course, you are going to connect your devices to the internet, so don’t forget to consider the mode of connectivity. Whether it’s Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, traditional mobile network, make sure it’s safe to use. You’ll want to carve out a strategy to assign permissions.

    #3 Hardware Capabilities — Along with software, it is also essential to consider hardware capabilities with your enterprise. Large businesses these days can easily add different hardware capabilities, but the entire process can be quite pricey and complicated.

    #4 Follow all the programming protocols — Having different programming protocols in place is another crucial element when connecting different devices at the same time.

    In the case of iOS apps, the External Accessory framework allows the communication with external hardware which is connected to any iOS-based device via Apple Lightning, wirelessly using Bluetooth or 30-pin connector.

    The framework supports need to figure out which kinds of app that various IoT devices can access through its connected iOS devices.

    It’s a Wrap.

    Considering all the pointers above into account, we can assume that businesses regardless of their size bound to provide innovative ideas and launch IoT mobile apps to carry out long-lasting engagement with their valuable customers.

    IoT is a massive change seeping into the technology world. Most industries will find valuable customer helps in wearables. High on the list is the healthcare industry’s high adoption of this technology.

    Businesses will need to cope with the latest trends now to gain experience so that they can move forward with all of the innovations to come.

    Originally published at readwrite.com, by Rooney Reeves, on March 20, 2019.

    IoT, AR and AI are Found Revolutionizing the World of Mobile Apps

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    Life After Screens

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    Life After Screens

    Screens connect us to our closest friends and strangers. They let us experience other people’s stories and tell people ours. Screens are how we work, play, create, and talk to each other. They bridge gaps in knowledge, time, and space. Screens are windows into other worlds and canvases we fill with the brushstrokes of our lives.

    But they’re going to die.

    Our brains are constantly tricked into believing that tiny little rectangles of colour are actually words, pictures, and videos. That’s all anything digital is: an illusion.

    Screens will be replaced by even more convincing illusions.

    Our visual senses are incredibly effective at consuming lots of information quickly, but a rectangular form factor is inherently limiting. The world is not rectangular. We don’t experience the physical world through a rectangle. Why should we experience the digital world through one?

    Like parked cars on a city street, monitors and screens sit idle most of the time, taking up space in your life when they’re not in use. A television or computer monitor spends most of its time as a black mirror.

    The screen is a big rusty nail doing an elegant screw’s job.

    The technology that replaces the screen will move information closer to the best graphics processing unit in existence: the human brain.

    Instead of lighting up flat, sometimes bendy, sometimes foldable rectangles that our eyes interpret as patterns, we will one day paint the digital world directly onto our brains.

    The story will go the same way it always does:

    It’ll start out clunky and look like a toy, schools will ban it, parents will fear it, talking heads will bemoan it, and boring people will feel superior for not wanting it, until one day, it’s as normal and unremarkable as the book.

    Picture the desk of the future. Instead of being a clunky monitor stand with a keyboard on it, your desk will be a complement to your digital life; a surface you can touch, store things on, and manipulate at will—an actual desktop, if you will. Instead of living inside a stationary black rectangle at eye-level, your information will surround you.

    You won’t spend half of your workday swapping between screens and managing several windows. You won’t fumble with a device in your pocket. You won’t have to buy extra monitors just to comfortably have more than one thing open at a time.

    Video calls will evolve into lifelike holograms that can make your brain believe that your relatives abroad are literally in the same room. The ceiling above your bed will become your personal, private movie theatre, or it will open up so you can see the stars above in realtime.

    The entertainment industry will explore dimensions and dynamics that aren’t even imaginable today. Entirely new kinds of games will be made possible. Concerts will wrap you up entirely, and you’ll be able to capture exactly what you see instead of watching the show from behind your phone. Movies will actually feel like they leap off the screen.

    You’ll be able to leave virtual notes that will persist in place and time—remind yourself to take out the garbage with a note on the door, or that the highway is closed with a note on the steering wheel, or write “Let’s go here!” on a restaurant you want to visit with your significant other.

    You’ll form entirely new connections to the world around you. Your communication, your entertainment, your workspace, and every part of life you currently experience through a screen will spill out into the real world.

    The internet is going to get really exciting when our digital lives outgrow screens. There will be new paradigms for design, new platforms for development, and entirely new possibilities to create and explore.

    The only limits will be the speed of light and the laws of physics.

    Screens will never completely disappear. They’ll still be the cheapest, easiest, or most intuitive solution to a few specific tasks, but their role in our lives will be smaller, quainter, and much less important.

    The internet is bursting at the seams. Let’s free it from the shackles of screens.

    Hey, thanks for reading!

    I tried something a bit different with this article. I’m going to post a new article every week moving forward, so make sure you follow me to see them.

    If you like this topic, I highly recommend this fantastic article from WIRED.

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    Life After Screens

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    Is big tech the new big oil?

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    Is big tech the new big oil?

    The phrase ‘data is the new oil’ is everywhere and I have no doubt that it is true. But that raises a question, if data is the new oil, is big tech the new big oil?

    Big oil is the term used to describe large oil and gas companies, especially in relation to their immense economic and political power. I am using the term more generally to refer to energy companies based on fossil fuels. You probably get a bad taste in the mouth with the term ‘big oil’. The ‘tech’ (which should more appropriately be called the Information Technology) industry might be heading in the same direction to become ‘big tech’ and generate the same bad taste.

    There is no doubt the current tech revolution is comparable to the industrial revolution in its scope, impact and effects. Industrial revolution which led to the current level prosperity is seen, generally speaking, as a positive phenomenon. The industrial revolution can really be viewed as an energy revolution. We learned to capture increasing amounts of energy and then build things, called machines. These machines could manipulate that energy (it is the textbook definition) to do something we want it to do. We learned to extract the energy trapped in concentrated biomass, essentially called fossil fuels. This was the birth of the so-called big oil.

    If the industrial revolution was about capturing and manipulating energy, the tech revolution is about capturing and processing data. This data serves many purposes from understanding the world around us to understanding us. In the knowledge, economy understanding translates to money. This is essentially the reason that data has become the new oil.

    Let’s see the similarities and dissimilarities in the positives and negatives of the two revolutions.

    The wealth created during the Industrial revolution lifted huge parts of the world and resulted in the ‘industrialized countries’. It is important to note the word countries. While we can debate about the inequality created within countries, it did lift large parts of the world and along with it large population out of poverty, and all the benefits that come with it. But the industrial revolution had a huge part in colonization thereby decreasing the wellbeing of other large parts of the world, increasing the gap between the well-off and the not so well-off countries. The tech revolution is doing something similar in a different way. The tech revolution has played a huge role in globalization and created a never-before level of connectivity across the world helping to decrease the wealth gap between countries, but it has also lead to concentration of global wealth. It is playing a major role in reducing the inequality across countries but increasing it within and at the level of humanity. Amazon is a quintessential example of this. It has concentrated the market of shopping in the hands of few. Jeff Bezos is currently the richest man alive with a net personal wealth of 160 Billion USD. Currently, just 9 of the world’s richest people own more wealth than the poorest 4 billion people on earth and the concentration of wealth has been increasing. Six out of these nine people are from the tech world.

    The big oil revolution brought with it the energy required to utilize a massive amount of natural resources. We used it to significantly increase the material needs and ability to provide them. The ‘collateral damage’ of that was overexploitation of the natural world. Our current global ecological footprint is 1.7 Earths i.e. we currently need 1.7 times the Earths to be at a sustainable level of consumption. Along with it came the mass extinction of species (we are in fact currently living in a mass extinction event — measured by reduction in biodiversity), pollution of air/water and destruction of natural systems. We essentially hacked and exploited the natural ecosystem.

    The current IT revolution is doing something similar, but instead of hacking and exploiting the natural system we have started to hack and exploit ourselves. We are the source of generation of large amounts of data, hence if data is the new oil it only makes economic sense that companies would try to extract as much as possible of it without considering the ‘collateral damage’. The big tech companies use advanced psychological manipulation techniques to make us generate more data. Every design element, every animation, every notification is made in a way to make us hooked to it. Social media is the archetypal example of this. Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook admitted that the thought process was ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’. New York Time columnist wrote in an article “Tech companies understand what causes dopamine surges in the brain and they lace their products with ‘hijacking techniques’ that lure us in and create ‘compulsion loops”. The smartest and most highly paid people of our generation are trying to figure out how to make us click ads and to continue looking at our screens. And we see the results around us. We are addicted to it, we get engaged in meaningless twitter quarrels, we look for the next opportunity to get the best selfie/foodie to post on Instagram and we measure our self-worth by the number of likes we get. The time people spend in front of their screen has grown immensely. One study found that 75% of children in the UK spend less time outside than prison inmates. We are all becoming data miners. During the industrial revolution, we worked in physically unsafe conditions of oil rigs/mines/factories. Now we do the same work with the comfort of our homes, brightly lit, colourful and ultra high-resolution displays, generating the data and feeding the algorithms that manipulate us to generate more data. The new mines and oil rigs are, everywhere, always, around us.

    One of the fundamental problems with us, as society and species, is we don’t really understand time. That is a topic for another blog, but enough to say we are short-sighted and it is especially easy to be short-sighted when things are looking good, in the economic term, when there is growth.

    Riding the high of unprecedented growth of the industrial revolution lead us to completely ignore the long term consequence of pumping large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. At the beginning of the industrial revolution, we didn’t understand the impact it could have on the ecosystem. But even when we had enough evidence, and we have had that since the 1960s, we completely ignored it and the big oil made sure we did. Even today, we continue doing it.

    The IT revolution is undergoing something similar right now by ignoring the warnings of the AI revolution. The AI risk can be broadly classified into two aspects: short-term market/job disruption and long term Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) development.

    The argument given by big tech and technologists about the first issue is that we have had technological revolutions before and people were afraid then as well. We managed to move from being primarily farmers to factory workers, lawyers, programmers, etc. And that would continue, we would move on to jobs that we cannot even imagine now. It’s just a question of training. There are two problems with that argument: 1. It is practically impossible to train a large section of the population in such advanced tasks and 2. What if every new job that is created, and a computer system becomes better at it by learning. We only have physical labour (taken away during the energy revolution) and mental labour (being taken away by the tech revolution) at our disposal as humans.

    The argument against the people who fear the risk of AGI can essentially be summarised by the statement: ‘Worrying about AGI is like worrying about the overpopulation of Mars’. This, to me, seems the same kind of argument that was (unfortunately still is) against climate change. And it is very easy to really believe this due to our short-sightedness or ignore it due to the financial gains. There is a proverbial saying in the silicon valley, ‘move fast, break things’, but what if the thing that is broken is unrepairable?

    All this is not to undervalue the immense contribution that tech has made and continues to do so. We cannot and should not stop advancements in these technologies. They hold the potential to solve some of the biggest challenges we face and create a level of prosperity like never before. The reason to have this discussion is not to ridicule the tech world but to shine the light from our last revolution to current one so we can learn from the mistakes we made (which we are still struggling to repair) and not repeat them.

    Is big tech the new big oil?

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    What Apple Needs for TV+ to Succeed

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    What Apple Needs for TV+ to Succeed

    We used to wonder if Apple would make an actual TV set. Instead, it became a TV studio. Before Netflix, Apple would have seemed like an unlikely content creation house. Back in 2013, Tim Cook told journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, “We never felt we needed to own content. We need access to great content… We don’t have the skill to produce and direct.”

    That has clearly changed. Apple has hired major talent to produce, direct, and star in a cluster of original programs. On Monday, the company held its equivalent of the network upfronts in, naturally, the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park Campus in Cupertino, California. The parade of A-list talent explaining the premise of each of their shows would have fit nicely in any network’s annual advertiser preview.

    Apple TV+ isn’t a television, but it is Apple’s big and ultimate TV bet. The company will sink at least $1 billion into fresh content, and it has attracted stars like Oprah Winfrey with a pitch you might sum up as “think different — about TV.”

    One thing that struck me during Cook’s introduction is how he characterized the streaming platform as something more than just television, as if it had a higher purpose than merely attracting eyeballs. The stars certainly seemed to buy it. When Aquaman’s Jason Momoa asked audience members to close their eyes and listen to what I thought was an ASMR session, he quickly pivoted to a discussion about the way blind people experience the world. His and Alfre Woodard’s show is a postapocalyptic tale in which the majority of survivors are blind.

    Apple understands the hurdles it faces in trying to beat Netflix. The big red streaming platform pours billions more into its own original shows and movies, which are overtaking licensed content, and it has built a formula for must-see TV. One complaint I have with Netflix is that because it dumps entire series onto the platform all at once, a lot of it gets lost or missed. Apple didn’t say if it would handle things more like, say, CBS All Access and dribble out one weekly episode at a time.

    My guess is that in its desire to meet Netflix on its playing field, Apple will go the binge route. Not unlike Netflix, Apple will do what it can to help audiences discover new TV+ offerings they might have missed. Its TV app update will rely heavily on A.I. and machine learning to analyze your viewing habits and present homegrown Apple TV+ content that you might like.

    And you may not be tethered to physical Apple TV hardware. Such is Apple’s streaming mania that it has done what was once unthinkable and is delivering its updated Apple TV app on other platforms, including Roku, Amazon Fire, and several lines of smart TVs. If Apple decides to follow suit with its Apple TV+ programming, this will position its subscription-based service right next to Netflix, which is obviously exactly where Apple wants to be. But simply being there is not quite the same as “arriving.”

    All those Apple-produced shows, from Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories to Jennifer Aniston’s The Morning Show, can’t just be good — they have to be incredible. Or at least one of them has to be Apple’s Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, or Handmaid’s Tale.

    A single must-see, water-cooler hit will alter Apple TV+’s fortunes. FOMO will drag people kicking and screaming behind the Apple TV+ paywall.

    But there will be far more misses than hits. This is show business, where the hit rate is alarmingly low. “Peak TV” means we have far more platforms and flexibility, but it also means it’s difficult for a small show to rise up and get noticed. What kind of conversations will go on at Apple Park as Jason Momoa’s show fails or when Jennifer Aniston realizes no one is talking about her program?

    I also don’t think Apple adequately answered the sex and violence question. I’m not saying Apple TV+ must include lots of R-rated content, but when you ask people to pay a monthly subscription fee for content, they expect certain options. It’s clear Apple has the kids covered with the new Sesame Street–flavored, coding-infused Helpers, and the rest looks like solid middle-of-the-road, broad-appeal fare. If Apple says no to nudity and polices blood flow, its streaming option could come off as lifeless and out of step. Artists want the freedom to express themselves. Those who appeared on stage, however, sounded quite comfortable with the Apple way.

    On the other hand, we caught only glimpses of Apple’s new shows. There was not one completed trailer — just one giant trailer for everything. We also don’t know how much the service will cost.

    Most people I spoke to expect Apple to charge $9.99 per month for Apple TV+. That would undercut Netflix’s $12.99 monthly subscription. Even if Apple came in at $4.99, it has to beat Netflix and Hulu on content, not price.

    Personally, I’m happy to be done with the endless speculation about an Apple TV set. Apple’s focus on software, frictionless channel access, and streaming content is the right place to be.

    What Apple Needs for TV+ to Succeed

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    The Case Against Breaking Up Big Tech

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    The Case Against Breaking Up Big Tech

    After witnessing decades of unfettered growth and ever-increasing influence and power, consumers have understandably fallen a little out of love with the tech industry. Nor does it help that tech has at times been acting like America’s abusive boyfriend — mishandling data, violating user privacy, policing closed ecosystems. What was once an adoring relationship has flipped to distrust — and, sometimes, outright hate.

    The undeniable power of these platforms and the tech giants that build them has prompted a wave of regulation that started in Europe with the General Data Protection Regulation and is poised to crash onto U.S. shores.

    To my mind, regulation is deserved and reasonable. Politicians, however, can’t resist going further, turning tech companies into political footballs. One politician in particular — senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren — is ready to play ball with a single-minded strategy: Break them up! In doing so, however, she may inadvertently dismantle years of economic and technological progress in the name of regulation.

    Warren’s master plan for unwinding years of tech consolidation is the sharp snap at the end of the techlash whip. I could almost see the millions of fists shooting up into the air when Team Warren posted its manifesto to break up big tech on Medium last week. I groaned when I saw the on-the-nose headline and as I read some of the article’s frankly ignorant lines.

    After detailing Microsoft’s efforts to dominate the internet in the 1990s by including Internet Explorer with every copy of Windows, Warren adds as an aside: “Aren’t we all glad that now we have the option of using Google instead of being stuck with Bing?”

    Here’s a tech history lesson for the senior senator from Massachusetts. Microsoft launched Bing years after the company had decoupled Internet Explorer from Windows (albeit under government pressure). Bing was built in an effort to compete with Google — which really does have an effective monopoly on internet search. Also, Senator Warren, Bing is a perfectly decent search engine!

    Her praise for Googling notwithstanding, Warren’s post also targets Google, Amazon (which she accuses of copying successful products outright), and, of course, the easy target that is Facebook. Notably, she left out Apple, although when asked by the media about whether that company should be able to sell its own apps on its App Store, Warren didn’t hesitate to swing her anti-trust ax.

    “So, it needs to do one or the other,” Warren responded on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “Either it runs that platform, the App Store, or it’s selling its own products on the App Store, but it doesn’t do both of those simultaneously. Because whenever it does, it has this enormous competitive advantage that wipes out all the other little businesses.”

    At another point, Warren used a sports analogy to explain her issues with companies owning platforms and the businesses on those platforms.

    “You can be the umpire—that’s the platform—or you can have a team in the game that’s running these individual businesses that meet on the platform,” she said. “But you don’t get to do both simultaneously. So, I think those ought to be broken apart.”

    Perhaps not coincidentally, Warren’s statements echo an argument that the music-streaming service Spotify recently made against Apple. The Stockholm-based company filed a complaint with the European Commission arguing that it is impossible to compete fairly against Apple because Apple effectively owns both the store and a major Spotify competitor, Apple Music. In an accompanying blog post, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek calls Apple’s 30 percent fee a “tax” and a “discriminatory tariff.” He also expresses frustration that if Spotify’s premium service doesn’t use Apple’s payment system, the company can’t communicate with or market to its customers through the Spotify app on iPhones.

    In an animated video the company posted, the company echoes Warren’s case, arguing that in both owning the App Store and running Apple Music, Cupertino is acting as both tennis player and court line judge. (This is a case of European versus American sports analogies.) Even though Spotify claims to hold no direct ill will toward Apple, the animation does make the company look particularly nefarious.

    So, is Apple taking unfair advantage of its competitors?

    “The competition issue here is not black-and-white,” Greg Francis, managing director at Access Partnership, a global public policy consultancy for the tech sector, tells me. The issue is more complex, he adds, because there are other content rights holders involved here beyond Apple and Spotify—namely the artists creating music and, through their representatives, enabling the relationship with Apple.

    Both Warren and Spotify’s Ek call Apple’s 30 percent cut on all App Store transactions a “tax.” But as I’ve written before, a tax implies a charge on top of the listed price of goods or services. In the case of App Store transactions, consumers see only one price and so do not recognize a post-sales tax.

    “The idea of tax is a bit of nonsense,” Francis says. The 30 percent that Apple charges app makers “is the cost of doing business.”

    While Apple didn’t respond to my request for comment on Spotify’s claims, it did post a lengthy answer on its website. Apple calls Spotify’s claims misleading and says the music-streaming service wants the benefits of being in the App Store—and drawing revenue from it—without paying its own way. From the post:

    The question of competition and control is intertwined with size and scope. Regardless of industry, companies with symbiotic technologies and market strategies tend to pool together like mercury. They get larger and shinier and inevitably consolidate control. For more than a century, government and watchdog groups have kept tabs, seeking to manage natural industry expansion and contraction without stifling growth and innovation. As Warren sees it, big tech has gone well beyond acceptable levels of size, reach, and control.

    Fundamental to the question of whether tech companies have gotten too big or powerful is how their existence affects innovation, especially in the startup space. According to Warren, first financing rounds for tech startups have tumbled 22 percent since 2012. That stat contradicts a recent CrunchBase report on tech venture capital, which identified 2012 as “a year of superlatives: the most amount of money invested in the highest number of private tech company financing events on record; the largest venture capital deals in history.”

    Warren insists these big tech companies are hurting the startup community by duplicating competing products and acquiring companies and technologies they cannot easily build on their own. In my experience, though, the preferred endgame for some startups is acquisition. I don’t see a lot of long faces when a small tech firm gets bought up by Apple, Google, or Amazon. Eero, for example, sounded almost gleeful when Amazon absorbed its mesh networking hardware business.

    There was some concern with existing Eero customers (including me) about how Amazon might change the brand, technology, or privacy protections, and Eero has sought to reaffirm its commitment to privacy. We’ll have to see how that plays out.

    It’s hard to find anyone — including the leaders of Facebook, Google, and Apple — who does not, at least grudgingly, support some form of tech regulation, which most people expect to arrive over the next year. But Warren’s strategy takes the notion further, layering on the assumption of guilt and giving local governments and consumers new rights to sue and even the right to block products or services from the marketplace.

    Warren’s point of view works only if you paint these companies as evil. But for all the bad press tech has gotten recently, there’s not much evidence that Americans view big tech companies negatively.

    “I don’t think the average individual regards tech as malevolent,” says Francis, who regularly advises governments and companies in developing and executing public affairs strategies. Even as some consumers support Warren, Ek, and others railing against the largest tech companies and their alleged monopolies, most people cannot live without their smartphones and the services on them — nor would they want to.

    Warren has some legitimate points. Facebook, in particular, has played fast and loose with consumer data across a broad swath of its products — most recently in storing hundreds of millions of user passwords in plain text for years. Was it done maliciously? Probably not. Carelessly? Absolutely. What’s more, Spotify and Warren do have a point about Apple. The company cannot deny its viselike dominion over the App Store, a strategy that controls millions of apps and affects billions of users, or the fact that it develops and owns multiple apps that compete directly with apps and services in its store.

    On the other hand, I can’t think of a single supermarket that doesn’t stock its shelves with its own brand of cereal, juice, meats, and frozen pizza. These products are invariably cheaper, if not always better. As far as I know, no one is seeking to stop ShopRite from selling its store-brand chicken next to Perdue’s.

    What if Warren is elected president in 2020? Could she enact her sweeping tech reform? Francis is blunt: “No, she couldn’t. When those companies start to mobilize against process, they could stall it for decades.”

    The danger for tech companies is that they simply ignore Warren and allow her rhetoric to stick with the public. Francis suggests that tech companies get out ahead of this and explain to the public why they don’t deserve the treatment she’s prescribing.

    Senator Warren is an exciting politician who isn’t afraid of big ideas, but I’m glad she wasn’t running for president 30 years ago. She would’ve killed the internet—and all the innovation that has come with it—in its crib.

    The Case Against Breaking Up Big Tech

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    Why Apple’s Shift to Subscription Services is the Right Move. For Now.

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    Why Apple’s Shift to Subscription Services is the Right Move. For Now.

    The announcement of Apple’s new subscription services comes less than three months after the company announced they adjusted down their projected revenue— largely due to a drop in iPhone sales. In his letter to investors, CEO Tim Cook pointed to the strength of the dollar and “challenges” in emerging markets such as those in Asia (read: China) as the main reasons for the revised forecast. The launch of Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and Apple News+ comes as a convenient distraction in turbulent times, but is nothing but a faint attempt to take the focus away from the real problem — it’s been over a decade since the company disrupted the tech industry with a brand new device.

    Apple won’t revolutionize the industry with TV+, Arcade or News+. In fact, given that iTunes has been around for nearly two decades, one could say they’re late to the game. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu have been around for years, allowing them to grow a strong foothold in the market for video streaming. Apple’s advantage is that it can seamlessly integrate its media services with its devices, which gives them easy, low-cost exposure to a relatively big market. However, Apple launching subscription services doesn’t count as innovation — it’s a half-hearted attempt to stay afloat.

    Steve Jobs’ return to the company in 1997 was followed by a decade of what was arguably the greatest run of innovation a company has ever seen. Apple introduced one earth-shaking device and service after the other. The iPhone, iPad, iPod, iTunes, App Store — the list goes on. These products created brand new industries (such as the mobile app industry, projected to be worth $189B by 2020), and shook already established industries to the core (Nokia never recovered after Apple’s launch of the iPhone in 2007).

    Apple succeeded because they understood what Nokia didn’t — that 99% of customers don’t care about hardware. They take it as a given. What users care about is software — the design, user friendliness, simplicity and last but not least; branding. Apple’s customers care about status and image, and want the latest, thinnest, most technologically advanced model. But only if it makes you stand out from the crowd, and your friends envious.

    The first few editions of the iPhone saw tremendous change to both design and functionality, however this has plateaued since the release of the iPhone 6. Most people would now struggle to tell the iPhone 6 and iPhone 8 apart. With pricey new models being almost indistinguishable from their predecessors, where is the incentive to pay twice the amount for a product compared to what it would cost elsewhere? It seems like the company, which was rooted in the notion of exclusivity and innovative design, forgot about its core principles.

    When Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, the market was flooded by tiny Nokias and clunky Blackberrys. Now the market is flooded with different versions of the iPhone — 6, 6s, 6s Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, X, XR, XS. The iPhone XS Max just doesn’t pack the same punch.

    If the Jobs era was the time of great innovation, the Cook era was the time for reaping the rewards of those innovations. But despite raking in 87% of global smartphone profits, there is a legitimate reason for concern after iPhone sales revenue dropped 15% in Q4 last year. With 52% of Apple’s revenue coming from iPhones, the company has clearly just taken a major hit.

    With no significant innovations since Jobs’ death, it’s natural for the company to start looking elsewhere for revenue. And with consumption of digital media on the rise and a video streaming market anticipated to reach $125 billion by 2025, media is the natural place to look. Apple is slowly transitioning into a different kind of company that isn’t so reliant on devices, but increasingly focuses on subscription services instead. However, in order to remain a $1 trillion dollar company, it can’t rely on getting its revenue from a subscription service with a small market share.

    Companies evolve. They’re always looking for new streams of income. Nokia went from producing car tires to making mobile phones. Today, no one would say that was a bad move. However, despite Nokia’s eventual fall from grace, Apple should remember the following: Nokia created a new industry when it switched from producing tires to mobile phones. Apple, on the other hand, is currently elbowing its way into an already crowded, established marketplace.

    Rapid growth of its media division is likely to make investors happy. However, despite the potential for growth, revenue from services currently makes up a mere 11% of Apple’s total revenue. Therefore, Apple’s media subscription services will work as a lifering for now. But if no bigger ship comes to save them, they won’t be able to keep their head above water forever.

    Why Apple’s Shift to Subscription Services is the Right Move. For Now.

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