Monday, July 14, 2014

Boot up: Microsoft's Nokia problem, BlackBerry PINtercept, UberX numbers

Women in hats and fur coats listen to gramophone record in train carriage Passengers listen to a radio gramophone aboard a LNER train. Now computers do this for you. Photograph: Getty

A burst of 8 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Sameer Singh on the details of the Microsoft-Nokia purchase, quoting from the Microsoft brand advice:

Microsoft brand will only replace the Nokia brand in product, applications and experiences when Microsoft has launched a new product into the market. 
The Lumia and Asha brands and products, the Mobile Phone portfolio, including Nokia X, sold under the Nokia brand will be transferred to Microsoft as part of the transaction. 
You may now say, "I work for Microsoft and I work on the Microsoft devices business." Do not say you work on the "Nokia business".

Based on my understanding, all Lumia and Nokia X products currently on the market will continue to carry the Nokia brand for some time. However, no new products from either portfolio will carry the Nokia brand. Interestingly, the bulk of Lumia and Nokia X shipments are concentrated in markets where the Nokia brand holds a lot of value (India, Europe, Latin America, etc.). Needless to say, this could spark a steep decline in Windows Phone's market share over the next 12-18 months.

More than a million encoded BlackBerry messages have been viewed by police as part of a crackdown against Quebec organized crime.

In arresting more than 30 people Thursday, the RCMP took the rare step of publicly highlighting its interception of the Canadian company's supposedly secure "PIN-to-PIN" communications.

…On Friday, the [Canadian] Supreme Court will weigh in on whether police need to first get a judge's permission to compel Internet companies to disclose basic customer information, which can now be handed over without any warrant. Parliament is on the cusp of passing a law that would explicitly shield corporations from any liability they could face by yielding records to government authorities.

Joe Mullin:

For more than three years now, Microsoft has held to the line that it has loads of patents that are infringed by Google's Android operating system. "Licensing is the solution," wrote the company's head IP honcho in 2011, explaining Microsoft's decision to sue Barnes & Noble's Android-powered Nook reader.

Microsoft has revealed a few of those patents since as it has unleashed litigation against Android device makers. But for the most part, they've remained secret. That's led to a kind of parlor game where industry observers have speculated about what patents Microsoft might be holding over Android.

That long guessing game is now over. A list of hundreds of patents that Microsoft believes entitle it to royalties over Android phones, and perhaps smartphones in general, has been published on a Chinese language website.

Mark Mulligan:

Amazon's inclusion of music streaming in its Prime offering speaks volumes about the perceived importance of music as a product to the retailer. Music used to be the crucial first rung on the ladder for Amazon customers. Buyers would start off with a low consideration purchase item like a CD or DVD and the next thing they knew they were buying microwaves and computers. Music is still plays an important role in Amazon's customer life cycle, but it is no longer a product needs paying for with a separate payment. Music has become the 'feels like free' soundtrack to a video subscription with the added benefit of free shipping for online shopping. 

I feel for the subjects of our SSD Endurance Experiment. They didn't volunteer for this life. These consumer-grade drives could have ended up in a corporate desktop or grandma's laptop or even an enthusiast's PC. They could have spent their days saving spreadsheets and caching Internet files and occasionally making space for new Steam downloads. Instead, they ended up in our labs, on the receiving end of a torturous torrent of writes designed to kill them.

Talk about a rough life.

Neat idea. SSDs turn out to be pretty robust.

The story of the for-hire vehicle industry (FHV) has been one long march toward commoditization, with drivers always getting the short end of an increasingly smaller stick. Since the early 1900s, taxi drivers have morphed from employees (prior to deregulation) to independent contractor-lessors (following deregulation) to sole proprietors (following Uber).10 With each transformation, the industry has shifted profits away from the drivers while pushing onto them a greater share of costs and liabilities. This is why drivers tend to push for medallion systems: because only by capping the supply of vehicles can full-time drivers be assured a living wage. Market equilibrium in a wholly deregulated taxi industry comes only when the desperate have driven out the good. The result is something that few cities would prefer to the imperfect gnarl that is a regulated taxi market.

I recognize that it's not exactly in fashion to side with regulation over laissez faire, and in many instances, I wouldn't. There are limits to markets, however, and the taxi industry presents an especially vivid example of that dynamic.

He also goes very precisely into the finances - which show that Uber isn't a magic money tree for taxi drivers; instead they'll still be worse off (perhaps on longer hours) than "official" taxis.

Adrienne LaFrance:

IRENE lives in the cool basement of the library's James Madison building. It looks, well, like a machine—all metal and lasers and motor — a little bit like a cross between a microscope and the guts of a home printer. How IRENE works: It's basically a digital-imaging device. So, say you have a vinyl record you want to preserve. IRENE scans the topography of the disc, and sends the images it produces to a computer. Separate software on the computer then converts those images into sound. 

"You have optics that magnify the surface of the disc," Alyea said. "You have a laser  that actually drives a motor that moves the whole system up and down like the autofocus on your camera. Most of these discs are not flat at all and there's a fairly small area of focus. Some light comes in here and is split and shone directly on the surface of the disc, and then there's a camera." More simply, IRENE is a mapping device that tracks the terrain of a recorded medium—like the pattern of the grooves etched onto a flat vinyl record. 

Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, remembers staring at a black velvet cloth draped over a product. Fadell would remove it only after he'd methodically set up the business case.

For Apple cognoscenti, the cloak-over-the-device shtick was an overt homage to Steve Jobs. The late CEO routinely shrouded products, in public demos as well as in his own conference room, in order to build excitement for the big reveal. Yet when Fadell pulled back the veil to display a Styrofoam prototype of a round thermostat, Komisar was crestfallen. "My emotions couldn't have been lower," he says. He perked up, however, when he saw Fadell's last slide: "After the thermostat we plan to do the same thing for every unloved product in the home and make them all magical." Says Komisar: "Then I got it. Nest was a Trojan horse into the home. In 48 hours we had a check for Tony."

Thorough profile.

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