February 21, 2024

Snippet: Walmart to Buy Vizio ☇

Walmart:

BENTONVILLE, Ark., and IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 20, 2024 — Today, Walmart and Vizio announced they have entered into an agreement for Walmart to acquire Vizio for $11.50 per share in cash, equating to a fully diluted equity value of approximately $2.3 billion.

The acquisition of Vizio and its SmartCast Operating System (OS) would enable Walmart to connect with and serve its customers in new ways including innovative television and in-home entertainment and media experiences. It would also create new opportunities to help advertisers connect with customers, empowering brands with differentiated and compelling opportunities to engage at scale and to realize greater impact from their advertising spend with Walmart. The combination would be expected to further accelerate Walmart’s media business in the U.S., Walmart Connect, bringing together Vizio advertising solutions business with Walmart’s reach and capabilities. These benefits would be further strengthened by the growth of connected TV platforms and Walmart’s industry-leading TV panel sales.

This isn’t about commodity TV manufacturing, but rather for the installed user base and software platform. This will bolster data mining and relationships with customers to combat Roku and especially Amazon, which have embedded their software in a lot of other manufacturers’ TVs. Even then, avoid using the built-in smart TV components and plug your own device in instead.

February 18, 2024

Snippet: The European Commission Had Nothing to Do With Apple’s Reversal on Supporting RCS ☇

John Gruber:

Chinese carriers have been proponents of RCS for years, and last year, the Chinese government began the process of codifying into law that to achieve certification, new 5G devices will be required to support RCS…Shockingly, the Chinese government seemingly isn’t concerned that the RCS standard has no provisions for encryption. The little birdies I’ve spoken to all said the same thing: iOS support for RCS is all about China. […]

China, unlike the EU, seemingly knows how to draft effective regulations to achieve specific goals.

This is an interesting development, although not surprising. RCS hasn’t seemed to be something the EU is interested in, nor many of its citizens, so forcing Apple’s hand would’ve been weird. I’d argue that no provisions for encryption is viewed as a feature, not a bug in China. I’ll admit that I don’t follow the developments in China as much as I should, but requiring it on a compatibility level makes a lot of sense. In fact, I’d argue that if lawmakers want to make some changes, adapting the FCC approval process would be a better method than addressing companies directly.

There has been a lot of controversy over the EU’s decisions lately—a handful of US-centric folks seem to be weirdly defending everything Apple does as correct with almost a “how dare they consider regulating a &asymp$3T company!” It’s being approached with a different lens in a different regulatory environment and sometimes the decisions may be a “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” situation. Even if we don’t agree with the methods or all the decisions, at least they’re trying to push for better? Likewise, we can also state that some of the things Apple does involving China are hypocritical, even if they have do it to play nice in that country.

I like a lot of Apple’s products, some things they do as a company, and the community around it, but I also think that they shouldn’t be above scrutiny. In fact, the scrutiny from people that enjoy Apple adds a layer of validity because there’s care involved. Personally, the current state of iPhone-to-Android SMS/MMS is terrible, so I’m looking forward to RCS—it’s not something my Android-using pals need to adapt to message me with other services or half-baked iMessage implementations. Is RCS perfect? No, but it’s a drop-in-place improvement over what we currently have.

February 16, 2024

Snippet: The Origin of Techbros ☇

Dave Karpf:

I find [Paul] Graham’s 2004 essay interesting because of what’s absent from the piece. Graham’ is depicting Silicon Valley as the land of misfit losers, the ultimate triumph of the A/V club. There are no techbros in his rendering. The hustle-culture types who chase wealth and fame by launching serial startups, high on charisma and low on subject-matter expertise, didn’t yet exist. This is an essay from back before techbros were a thing.

And that raises what I consider to be a more interesting historical question: when did the cultural archtype of the techbro emerge?

It’s funny because it sort of just happened at some point and I think the world is worse off. I got interested in tech because it was fun to tinker with old computers and talk about it with other people tinkering with old computers. It seems like the “techbro” types are the ones pushing certain fads to “make the world a better place” (crypto, NFTs, even AI to an extent) instead of truly useful things. Look at social media over the last year—that is 100% the situation at Twitter X and Reddit. I think we’ve sort of seen a shift where a lot of leadership in tech are this type and not tinkering geeks at heart.

Snippet: Cable Can’t Compete with 5G Home Internet, So It’s Cheating ☇

Corbin Davenport:

I renewed the lease on my apartment last month, which came with a new monthly charge: $70 per month for internet access. I was confused, because I had previously paid for my internet service directly through the provider company, but now it’s bundled in my rent agreement with no opt-out mechanism. I’m stuck with an expensive Spectrum plan until I move out, unable to switch to 5G-based competitors (or landline options if there were any), and I’m not the only one. […]

Apartment complexes and other communities signing exclusive deals with Spectrum is not a new practice, and the arrangements aren’t all the same. I found one person at the Day Heights Meadows community in Ohio, who in January 2023 was switched to a bulk Spectrum package with both 500 Mbps internet and a basic TV package. One other person complained that their apartment in Florida included Spectrum internet with no opt-out, with speeds that dropped from the promised 800 Mbps to 0.31 Mbps on a regular basis. The only fix they had was splitting the cost of a Verizon 5G router with a roommate, but that was also too slow to be usable most of the time.

Apartment complexes are notoriously bad about adding in useless services—the place I used to live in changed owners and the new owners required a $30/month service to pick up trash at your door. In my case, the dumpsters were about a twenty foot walk from my car—is pickup at a certain time on a certain day better than being able to throw out a full bag whenever I leave home? Likewise, a friend of mine lived in a nearby complex with semi-mandatory Internet service that was run through the complex, which was predictably terrible. Fortunately, she was able to opt-out, and while cable or DSL couldn’t be added, she was using 5G service.

For what it’s worth, in my decade or so at two different apartment complexes, I changed ISPs numerous times to take advantage of promos and think I typically paid $35-$50 at any given time. While not in a Spectrum market, that $70/month “discounted” rate isn’t very good.

I can understand an apartment complex not wanting to add new infrastructure (i.e. a fiber provider expands to an area), but one should be able to opt-out of included services and use a wireless option. While the FCC has weighed in a bit, I wonder if this would be something HUD or another government body could take a look at?

February 15, 2024

Snippet: Apple News You Can’t Use ☇

Joe Rosensteel:

I received an email survey last week for Apple News+ and decided to throw Apple a bone by filling out the survey as best I could. Apple wanted my opinion, as a former Apple News+ subscriber, but I’m uncertain how receptive Apple is to the complaints that I have, as I have filled out similar surveys before. Also, the survey was weirdly focused on making sure I knew about audio versions of articles, and asking why wasn’t I using audio versions of articles? The answer, was that I have no personal interest in such a thing. I don’t begrudge anyone that, especially for increased accessibility, but I would appreciate more care in the news reading portion of the news reading app. Beware if you’re deeply invested in them because the whole survey might just be a pretense to scale back on them rather than actually fix anything.

As a former Apple News+ subscriber myself, I also received the survey and filled it out honestly. Every time that I give the service a try, I always quickly lose interest and then let the trial lapse. Rosensteel nails all of my criticisms, including layout, advertising, and content. I found it frustrating that blocked sources and topics would still surface: even though “Sports” is a prominent section, it will show you all popular sports, no matter how many times you tell it you’re not interested in a particular one. The general tone can be best described as “cheap”—it’s not a place I enjoyed browsing.