January 2, 2019

Link: Why It’s Hard to Escape Amazon’s Long Reach ☍

Wired’s Paris Martineau and Louise Matsakis (via Nick Heer):

The company is known as the “everything store,” but in its dogged pursuit of growth, Amazon has come to dominate more than just ecommerce. It’s now the largest provider of cloud computing services and a maker of home security systems. Amazon is a fashion designer, advertising business, television and movie producer, book publisher, and the owner of a sprawling platform for crowdsourced micro-labor tasks. The company now occupies roughly as much space worldwide as 38 Pentagons. It has grown so large that Amazon’s many subsidiaries are difficult to track—so we catalogued them all for you. This is our exhaustive map of the Kingdom of Amazon.

I often think about where I buy things and Amazon has worked its way into my life even more in 2018. I still try to show Target, Meijer, Aldi, and numerous other retailers some love for the sake of diversity and playing to each of their strengths. I’m certainly not in the “down with Amazon” camp, but the list does put into sobering perspective the sheer size of the company.

Link: Apple Exited the Home Wi-Fi Market at the Wrong Time ☍

Bradley Chambers for 9to5Mac:

As end-users are starting to load their home networks with more than a single laptop and a few smartphones, people have realized that having a high-quality router (with whole house coverage) is not a luxury. If you want to load your house up with smart home products, multiple iOS devices, Apple TVs, etc., you have to invest in the infrastructure. Plain and simple, Apple exited the home networking business at the exact wrong time.

When Apple was selling home routers for $199, they were ahead of their time. They had built a router that was high-end, easy to manage, and worked well. Around the rest of the industry, companies were selling home routers that were hard to manage (if step #1 is to log in to an IP address, you missed it), required rebooting, and couldn’t handle the load.

There’s plenty of great arguments in this piece, as I loved my AirPort products years ago, but the harsh reality is that outside of the echo chamber of tech writers who get mesh products or other solutions, there’s still plenty of people using terrible networking equipment at home and it’s a hard sell to convince them on the infrastructure investment.

ISP-provided routers are a bit better than they were years ago, but the narratives that Wi-Fi doesn’t always work well and ISP-provided routers are “good enough” still exists, even among many technology-oriented people (typically the type who do nothing with networking and it’s an opaque mystery box). AT&T requires you use their router/modem combo, so you might as well use what’s included, right? Some ISPs offer various extenders with varying success, so again, there’s the narrative that if one type of device doesn’t work, any sort of setup won’t work.

Networking is my day job and I pride myself on a nice setup at home where all of my devices can actually use robust Wi-Fi, but I know that not everyone can do that. Instead, some of these newer solutions like Eero, Google WiFi, Ubiquiti AmpliFi, etc. bring a lot to the table for a bit of money, but I fear that too many people won’t justify the spend. That may be the real reason Apple abandoned the market.

News: Apple Lowers Guidance for Q1 2019

In a letter to investors, Apple CEO Tim Cook has adjusted the financial guidance for the fiscal 2019 first quarter that ended on December 29. It’s mostly the iPhone’s fault…

December 19, 2018

Link: Facebook Shares With Friends ☍

Gabriel J.X. Dance, Michael LaForgia, and Nicholas Confessore for The New York Times:

For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews. […]

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.

Holy shit (okay, I’m not really that surprised). What a soulless, sociopathic, terrible company and yet, neither regulators nor its users are really making it answer for its transgressions. While I deleted my account about a year ago, I try not to be the person who leads with, “I deleted my Facebook account.” Friends mention something they saw on there and forget that I didn’t see it, catching themselves, and I feel like I really haven’t missed much. The thing is, everyone knows its bad, but doesn’t seem to care.

Link: Qualcomm is a Patent Troll ☍

Joe Rossignol for MacRumors:

In China, as planned, iOS 12.1.2 also implements minor changes to address two Qualcomm patents that led to a Chinese court issuing a preliminary injunction on the iPhone 6s through iPhone X last week, according to Apple’s release notes in Chinese. These changes were not mentioned in any other countries. […]

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Qualcomm’s chief lawyer Don Rosenberg said that Apple continues to “flout the legal system” by violating the preliminary injunction, which should have resulted in affected iPhones being unavailable for purchase in China, and by releasing misleading statements about the ruling.

While this seems to be China-centric right now, antics like this ensure that Qualcomm is working their way out of Apple’s supply chain (Qualcomm used to be the primary supplier of cellular modems, and Intel was brought in for some iPhone 7, 8, and X models, and now all Xs, Xs Max, and Xr models). Since Qualcomm has the main patents on CDMA technology (what Verizon and Sprint used in the pre-LTE world), they’ve often flexed this muscle and see Apple as a nice target.

While I generally don’t worry myself about spats with multi-billion companies, a lot of people are unfamiliar what Qualcomm does and their role in the industry. While I’m all for protecting patents, some of Qualcomm’s complaints seem like just an excuse to cause trouble for Apple.