Apple and Beats; I am Not Sure Why, But I Will Voice An Option Like Everyone Else

At the Store With Child Apple Beats

At first I was a Microsoft user. I built my own machines. I used DOS back in the day and WordPerfect. My first laptop was an IBM Lug-able. It was so heavy that you had to use a luggage cart. I switched to Apple in 2008. I admit it, I bought it because it was pretty. Now a days my main driver is the MacBook Air with max memory and max SSD. So when I heard about the Apple purchasing Beats I ask myself why.

I ride the subway almost every day. I love it. It is very convenient and I think it is (when it is not crowded) fun. When I am riding I see three kinds of headphones consistently. I count them. One are the distinctive white Apple headphones. Two are the Beats headphones. Third are the noticeably bad copies of the Apple and Beats headphones. Oh and some bluetooth headsets. From the standpoint of popularity I can see why Apple bought Beats.

As for quality…I have no idea. I am not an audiophile. I don’t care about converting all my songs to high bit rate. So when I hear that the Beats headphones are not great. I was like, to whom? How many audiophiles are there? CNET says that it is only one percent. So that means to me that only one percent of the population won’t buy Beats. A minor number. Everyone else is fair game.

I guess I might be getting older, but I may not buy beats either. The style is not me. Maybe I am in my Microsoft phase of headphones. The prettiness of Beats headphones may entice me later. I can’t say.
Photo credit: Alejandro Castro / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Age of The Digital Assistant Has Come. Too Soon? Is It Ready?

Cortana Lego Person

Microsoft announced their digital assistant, Cortana, on Wednesday. It looks like and sounds like Apple’s Siri.   While Microsoft has changed “What I can help you with?” to “Need Something?”. Google also has a digital assistant called Google Now.

I have used Siri off and on. More off than on. It seems like a toy than a workable product. Sometimes she understands me other times I am thinking she just gave up and is now ignoring me.

Google now seems more workable as it notifies you when you need information before you need it. Google Now is a responsible assistant. Siri needs activation to do something for you. Click and hold the iPhone home button and ask it for something. The voice recognition is not great. It needs more time to cook.

I want a digital assistant that would have two actions. One, I can ask it things I need to have done and it will do it. Two, it will know about me since it will have access to all my information on all my accounts and computers (including all mobile devices). The access I give to it given via an encrypted method. If the assistant runs into a problem I don’t want it leaking my information.  I would like the Cortona like assistant to create the information it gets while getting to know me kept in an encrypted area. What happens if the digital assistant becomes too intelligent and wants to become me. I would need a way to cut it off. That begs a question; How would you fire a digital assistant?

Are we ready for this? These Apple, Google and Microsoft are easing us into this very slowly. If we go too fast we would recoil about having a program having access to all our information. Taking privacy into account is a must.

In the future, where would these assistants live? I have given this some thought. Right now these entities live on your mobile device and on the provider’s servers. Eventually when network speed is not an issue I could see them swimming in the wakes of the global internet.  They could go from one network to another. That reminds of the movie Her. Unlike the movie I would not want it sentient. I would not want my assistant running off.

Photo credit: uubergeek / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Apple iOS 7.1 Launches Major iBeacon Improvement | BEEKn


After opening an iBeacon app we hard closed it: not just putting it into the background tray but swiping it closed entirely. The phone still detected beacons and sent a message through the lock screen, something which in the past was reserved for apps that were at minimum running in the background tray.

This is a great release. I own the Trackr product and it looses connection to the iPhone all the time. If this gives some needed improvement in use I am a happy customer. I like the product a lot. When it works it really does work. BlueTooth LE is still flakey.

iBeacons is a interesting technology that would give us in doors location services, plus context awareness. These things will be used to send relevant information to us.

via Apple iOS 7.1 Launches Major iBeacon Improvement | BEEKn.

Apple releases iOS 7.1 with CarPlay support, performance improvements, UI tweaks, new accessibility options, more | 9to5Mac


Bug fixes and other improvements.Touch ID fingerprint recognition is improved.An occasional Home screen crash bug has been fixed.

About time. I can’t wait to install this. I am installing it now. Here are update links.

via Apple releases iOS 7.1 with CarPlay support, performance improvements, UI tweaks, new accessibility options, more | 9to5Mac.

Hardwired NYC Meetup February 2014, Hosted at Quirky

Hardwired NYC #7 Feb 2014

The walk was long (Ugh, from 7th ave to 11ave) , but I finally made it to the Hardwired NYC Meetup February 2014 event, Hosted at Quirky. Even though I was late I was early. People were just flowing in to Quirky’s offices located on the far West 28th street. As a life long New York’r going this far west is a trek. I am not sure I could get use to that commute. LOL

Before going to the event I noticed a link on the event page. I am did not see it before. So I may have missed it. The link was to Quirky’s NDA. I read it and it was simple, but strange that they would imply the use of this for this event. I have heard other people complaining about these NDA’s at events at the Makerbot offices. They require you to sign the NDA before you enter. At this event you did not sign anything, but the NDA was implied. I have no idea how Quirky could in force this, but anyway. We are here to hear peoples hardware startup stories. Of which I love to hear.

Brian Garret and Bram de Zwart, co-founder, 3D Hubs:  3D Hubs is world's largest platform connecting 3D printer owners with people who want to print. We are on a mission to make 3D printing truly local and accessible.

Brian Garret and Bram de Zwart, co-founder, 3D Hubs:  3D Hubs is world’s largest platform connecting 3D printer owners with people who want to print. We are on a mission to make 3D printing truly local and accessible.

First up are the gents, Brian Garret and Bram de Zwart, from 3D Hubs. 3D Hubs helps connect people that need something 3D printed to the people that have the 3D printers. They do this globally and by building a community of enthusiast that are in the know about 3D printing. They realized the need when they were working for Cubed. They saw that most 3D printers are idle about 98% of the time. Damn, that is a lot of idle time. I later asked them how long do you think it would take on average to use 3D Hubs to help pay for your 3D Printer itself. They said it was about 100 prints or about 2-3 months of constant use of 3D Hubs market place community.  That is amazing. Makes me want to go out now and get a 3D printer now!! This could push me over the edge. I do own a Printrbot Simple, but I have not been liking it lately.

Emile Petrone, founder and CEO of Tindie (marketplace for hardware and "indie tech")

Emile Petrone, founder and CEO of Tindie (marketplace for hardware and “indie tech”)

Next up was Emile Petrone, founder and CEO of Tindie. Tindie is a market place for all things hardware and tech focused. An artisanal hardware market place. I have bought things on Tindie before. The interface is very simple and easy to use. He talked about how Tindie started. It started via a Reddit post. He asked the Reddit community about his business idea, got feedback and then knew he should try it out. If I remember correctly he mentioned he did a trial of this at an Apple WWDC event. Please correct me if I got this wrong here. Tindie does remind me of Etsy. The difference and similarity is that they both do  products that focus on a type of product category. Handmade verus Artisanal Hardware. The value in this business is the audience (eyeballs) Tindie brings to their customers that setup a store front on the website. I am wondering though if after the uniqueness of this blows over what will they do to keep the eyeballs coming back. I hope they have thought of that. I love the idea of these market places. They give the maker-going-pro a place to tip their toes into ecommerce in a safe environment.

Alice Taylor, founder and CEO of Makie (custom 3D printed dolls)

Alice Taylor, founder and CEO of Makie (custom 3D printed dolls)

The fabulous founder and CEO of Makie, Alice Taylor was up next. You have to love her. The Brits talk very smoothly and eloquently. Even with the jet lag she gave a great presentation. They make customizable 3D printed dolls for girls. I have hear very little of her company.  I give them a lot of credit for entering into the toy business. Wow. Just wow. Their product is very very professional looking for a 3D printed product. I wonder, I forgot to ask, which 3D printer they use. Her presentation was a mix of how she got started and lessons learned. Their two revenue stream business is fascinating. They sell the customizable dolls and they are now starting to go into online gaming. Their first game is a dress up game. They may have a boy’s doll in the works. I know little about the toy business, of what I know is that it is a very hard business to break into. She has done it. I think it is cool that she has used 3D printing to create such a unique toy.

Hugo Fiennes, founder and CEO of Electric Imp (hardware and software connectivity platform for the IoT)

Hugo Fiennes, founder and CEO of Electric Imp (hardware and software connectivity platform for the IoT)

The last presenter, before the interview with the CEO of Quirky was Hugo Fiennes, founder and CEO of Electric Imp. Electric Imp is a platform for IoT. I have heard of them before, but never heard his startup story. He worked at some very important companies like Apple, Nest and IBM as an Electrical Engineer. He started Electric Imp while he was working at Nest. The idea of having a platform for how smart things communicate over the web is brilliant. It makes the job of the electrical engineer easier. From my standpoint our customers will get an IoT product prototype quicker. However, the downside is when you want to go to production and scale to higher quantities. As the number of products increase the manufacturing cost don’t scale because you need to include the SD card package in your product. However if they can shrink it down to a chip package and manufacture that in large quantities the costs will definitely go down and scaling will happen. He mentioned they are looking into that. Quirky is a partner of theirs and uses the Electric Imp in their smart plug. Check out some of the pictures below in the gallery section of this post. In them he shows a diagram of how Electric Imp works. I like it. Again I would love to give it a try.

Matt Turck interviews Ben Kaufman Quirky Founder

Matt Turck interviews Ben Kaufman Quirky Founder

The interview of Ben Kaufman Quirky Founder by Matt Turck was interesting. Ben’s story is one of those “it is great to not know anything and just jump right in” stories. Just do it as on your Nikes says Ben. The interview was a bit uncomfortable at one point as Ben mentions how FirstMark, the VC firm that Matt works at, screwed him. From what I see from Quirky’s fab offices, they are not hurting in the least. The Quirky offices are beautiful. The comments got some groans and laughs from the audience, but obviously you could feel the energy was a bit tense. Matt was great at continuing and asking Ben questions to get the interview on track. Some Ben did not answer. Ben did talk about the Quirky process of which everyone knows about. I do think it is interesting that Quirky has created a global manufacturing community in which they do all the product development and heavy lifting for the manufacturing process. They even do distribution. If you are a manufacturer you have to admire them. Ben has a sense of pride in that they treat the designer and IP maker as king. Quirky owns the IP and the designer has a forever license. This creates a lot of value for Quirky as they bare all the risk. I admire them, their capabilities, their relationships with GE and their retail distribution channels. Way to go Quirky!!!

After the stage act was over the networking began. I saw a lot of old faces that I have gotten to know on the hardware scene. Until the next Hardwired NYC event.

Check it out. I have more pictures of the event below. Sorry for the low light conditions, but you should be able to make out the slides and the speakers ok. I did my best to caption the images. Enjoy.

Trying to See Apple From a Different Angle –


Trying to See Apple From a Different Angle –

What is Apple to Wall Street? A growth company or value company. Is it a long term stock or is it a short term bet. Should Apple innovate nonstop. Apple is none of these. It is something different, but people want to place it into an existing category. Innovation does not happen when you call upon it and innovative break throughs do not happen everyday. If it did how innovative would it be. We would be dizzy with too much change. Things happen when the market is ready for it.  It can not happen everyday.

Disclosure: I own a Macbook Air, an iPhone and an iPad mini

“Assembled” vs. “Made”, What is the Difference?

Assembled in USA

Two weekends ago I spotted an op-ed piece by Thomas L. Friedman. In this piece he reviews a book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s called, “The Second Machine Age”. This book is their sequel to their very popular book called, “Race Against The Machine“. The main idea of their books are that technological advancement is happening faster that ever before and there are ramifications to the fast pace or technological progress. There is some good and some bad side effects ( I am down playing it here a bit. Your will see why in a few). This relates to how we manufacture products in developed countries and what it really means when we say “Made” vs. “Assembled”.

When is a product assembled and not made? If you are a tech person you are aware of the new Mac Pro that Apple release on Thursday, December 19 2013. Sorry Apple for using you as an example (I own a Macbook Air, an iPhone and an iPad mini). There were several articles such as this one by Time that characterized the building of the product in the USA. This is not true. The Mac Pro is assembled in the USA. You might ask what is the difference? There is a huge difference. Just because the factory is located in the Arizona, USA does not mean the entire product is made in the USA. Also it does not mean there will be a ton of new jobs created. On the contrary it is the exact opposite. Few jobs are created.

“Made” implies that the product and components are built in that location. Everything. There are also other implications that people assume with “Made”. Such as, there are people in the factory on an assembly line and people at stations building components. That was true and in some situations is still true, but less and less people are making things today. Robots not humans are making things more and more. People tend to think that since there is a factory then there must be people in it making and  building.

“Assembled” means that the components are made some place else and brought to the factory to be assembled into a finished good. This requires even less people at the factory. Even less in the future. Machines do the assembly. Again not many people needed in this process.

“Apple is bringing manufacturing back to the USA and leading the charge for manufacturing in the USA. Bringing back jobs”…Not

People were over joyed that “Apple is bringing manufacturing back to the USA and leading the charge for manufacturing in the USA. Bringing back jobs”, but that is the furthest from the truth. As an American I was happy too, but having a new factory built does not mean there will be jobs. That is what is elegantly discuss in the Thomas L. Friedman piece and the two books I mention. In the not to distant future 5-10 years as we get closer to autonomous robots the numbers of people in the factories will get closer to zero. The good thing about that is the factory location can now be located closer to the consumers and the factories could handle customizations at a low price. This is a boon for the manufacturers too, logistics (getting the product to the consumer) become easier and labor costs are reduced to near zero. The not so good thing is that this will not increase employment, but reduce it.

As machines get smarter (faster and cheaper) they will replace people in many jobs. As a society we need to decide where and how far this should go. There needs to be a way to balance this out. As a technologist I am excited about the potential. As a member of society I am concerned. Should I be?

Top image is from Thank you.