The canary in the coal mine

Following up from my post yesterday :: http://www.nokpis.com/2015/01/06/thanks-marco/

Some people are acting like none of us can complain about Apple or that there is nothing wrong. So rather than harp on the sensationalist side of things I thought I would highlight where there is real commentary about the state of Apple from a real developer.

Gruber’s take on the Panic post :: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2015/01/07/panic-report

Look no further than Panic. I have been using their software for years and they are very open about the state of things.

Read their latest blog post first :: http://www.panic.com/blog/the-2014-panic-report/

If we could offer traditional discounted upgrades via the App Store, this paragraph wouldn’t exist. This is one area where the App Store feels like one of those novelty peanut cans with the snake inside.

This is so spot on. Hard to have the marketing and sales flexibility one desires when things like upgrades are not easily doable.

Coda was removed from the Mac App Store in mid-October, at the same time version 2.5 was released. Since new releases always generate a short-term sales spike and we wanted the numbers to be fairly representative of “typical sales”, we looked at one month on either side  — September and November.

The results were interesting. We sold a couple hundred fewer units of Coda post-App Store removal, but revenue from it went up by about 44%.

I am guessing they are only leaving the Mac App Store due to technical and pricing flexibility but of course not having to share 30% must be nice. All in all there are still too many issues with the Mac App Store – it is definitely not working out the way Apple intended.

The last couple of months of 2014 got classically “exciting” as Transmit iOS was suddenly flagged by the App Review team for a violation — a well-documented situation, both on our blog, and sites like Daring Fireball and MacStories. Thanks almost exclusively to these articles, we very quickly got a very nice call from a contact at Apple, and the situation reversed almost immediately. Everything ended up just fine.

But I can’t comfortably say “the system worked”. It’s still an awful and nerve-wracking feeling to know that, at any minute, we could get thrown into a quagmire of e-mails, phone calls, code removal, and sadness, just by trying to ship something cool.

I have written about the issue with the review process more than a few times. It really is horribly broken. Reviewers don’t read review notes, they make a lot of mistakes and there is too much time in getting through the issue for each cycle. I really don’t understand why Apple can’t apply some code and thinking to the way the process works. Panic is huge and well known so they have it easy. Folks like us, the mere mortals, have to sit and endure shitty reviewing for each appeal and subsequent follow up reviews. This is why I actually like the Play Store better.

Low iOS Revenue

This is the biggest problem we’ve been grappling with all year: we simply don’t make enough money from our iOS apps. We’re building apps that are, if I may say so, world-class and desktop-quality. They are packed with features, they look stunning, we offer excellent support for them, and development is constant. I’m deeply proud of our iOS apps. But… they’re hard to justify working on.

This one is tough, I don’t blame Apple but it is sad that apps can’t make enough money. People just don’t want to pay. What Panic doesn’t talk about is that the situation on Android is far, far worse. Unfortunately it means one has to come up with other models to make money. I am always stunned when I get customer emails from people who use Spuul complaining about using our free product and having to endure ads. They think there should be no ads but they don’t make any connection to the fact that the ads are how we support a free service. Then you tell them they can upgrade to remove all the ads and they reply that they simply don’t want to pay anything. Okay. Not much I can even say to that. This mentality is all over the app ecosystem.

Panic is just a reminder though that Apple cannot succeed with out developers and their fans but increasingly with the draconian and outdated App Store and the slippage in software quality – Apple risks losing some momentum. It won’t be instant or even easily spotted but these are the canaries – like it or not.

Streaming pile of doo

Funny – I just read this :: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6215246

Notice that most of the list is not really about making anything better for users.

Back to the post…

As I am in the states I have been messing around with all the streaming services available in the states. Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix across a variety of devices like TVs, Roku, Apple TV, Sony Blu Ray, Xbox, iPhone, iPad, and who knows what else. Its amazing all the innovation but yet everything is generally a pain in the ass to use and all suffer from edge cases. Nothing is really awesome and nothing works well across all use cases. 

As a precursor to all of this I know the general issue is that the content owners just don’t allow for innovation. It plain and simple how clear that is. So unfortunately I think the whole industry is held back by the owners of the content. This is why piracy is so rampant and in some sense the best user experience because product people can do amazing things with files, networks, and user experiences. Legal services cannot do anything they want and are mostly held back. Such is life. I don’t think this will change anytime soon.

It’s clear to me that even guys like Jason who is building https://www.vessel.com know this which is why they are focusing on user generated content since if they get it right they can do anything they want in reality. Of course there will be markets economics driving some decisions and they have to compete with YouTube while attracting content makers but still the playing field is much less restrictive than real content or shall we say trapped content. I have no idea how vessel will do but I think it will shake the market up some. YouTube is huge but the search experience, the curation and some of the viewing experiences are really broken. They are so big though they don’t care. Vessel has the time, money and experience to make a go of it.

In my own experience of using services while I am in the states I find that the best device to use is still Apple TV but it really could use an update. The remote sucks, the home screen is too cluttered and it needs more apps but the overall experience is better. On a technical note even if I am using Netflix I would rather use it via Apple TV cause it partially deals with one of my Netflix pet peeves which is streaming only and sucks on bad connections. Yes – America is full of shitty connections. However the way the Apple TV works, and it is the only Apple device that does this, the movie is essentially downloading as you watch it which means it does not pixelate or buffer much providing the viewing position is behind the download. If you use the Netflix app, Netflix on the web or Netflix via a smart TV app the streaming only issues will crop up. I need to dig into Roku more but I think it still streams versus downloading. All in all I prefer Apple TV and Netflix.

Problem is though Netflix is pretty shitty content wise. Sure you get the big Netflix hits and a few others but almost all new TV shows are not on it and the movie selection is dim. Which means that as the family gathers around the TV and we want to watch something new – we have being using the Apple TV to purchase movies on iTunes. The selection really is the best for movies and TV shows. Yes it costs money but if 15 of us are sitting in the room and we want to watch a new release, paying 4-10 bucks is still cheaper than going to the movies. So it is actually an affordable deal. Not everything is yet released on it but there is way more new content on iTunes than anywhere else. With Netflix I have to know what I want to watch cause there is no awesome way to sort movies by rating or by other characteristics, it is mostly just genres and then lists in the order that Netflix wants you to see it. I also find that I either want to use the Netflix app on iTunes or I connect my phone to the TV to use the iOS app. The Samsung Netflix apps are shit, the Roku one is okay and the Sony BluRay one is okay. None are amazing. In summation Netflix is the best for streaming, subscription and amount of content all wrapped up into one.

Just a quick side note – Sony makes the worst software ever. No wonder they lose money and are easily hacked.

The big issue I have is Netflix is streaming only. Which sucks if you are on a bad connection, are mobile or want to prep stuff for your kids. There is no way to download anything or cache anything so once you hit the road Netflix is useless. For this I turn to either YouTube or iTunes. YouTube cause I can stream easily on mobile and find lots of kids stuff but of course this is using mobile data. I can’t offline or download YouTube yet. For iTunes I can buy and download stuff and keep it on my device. This is awesome for road trips. It sucks that Apple does this but they can’t seem to figure out streaming. Again this is where any one service cant fit all models well. Netlfix won’t download and iTunes won’t stream. This stuff is not rocket science and it sucks they both can’t figure out how to combine these functions but my guess is that the content guys are part of the problem. I know from my own experience with Spuul that content people can dictate tech or product features. Sad but true.

All this means that there is no perfect service or device – well apart from just pirating whatever you want to watch. I like the Apple ecosystem more than others but it is also ripe for disruption if Apple does not ship a new Apple TV and figure out the cloud. Netflix is obviously the big service for streaming but the inability to control bandwidth, download and sort is such a big miss for me. It will be interesting to see how Netflix conquers new markets with these limitations. Google is in the mix but I honestly don’t use it apart from YouTube – Chromecast is cool and all but Apple TV works better for me. Mostly cause I am into iOS. 

I am sure there a better solutions ahead but the content guys hold the keys I think. So the product guys can innovate all they want but the end result is content is king. The content guys are in the tech dark ages. This is why I am convinced that Vessel is focusing on user generated content first – this way the product can shine.

Merry streaming!

 

Can anyone run Yahoo?

Adding this for everyone :: http://thomasdiong.com/post/105578350652/marissa-mayer-is-doing-a-fine-job

The internet is all on fire with the latest article about Yahoo and the forthcoming book. It is too juicy of a subject not to talk about it. Here I go.

In case you are wondering I have written about Yahoo before – and normally these posts always make my top 10.

Starting from the most popular on down:

Fuck you, I’m the ‘D’ on this

What the hell happened to Yahoo! Messenger

Thinking about Koprol 2.0

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 1

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 2

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 3

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 4

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 5

Fuck you, I’m the ‘D’ on this – part 2 (#marissadidit)

What is happening with Yahoo?

That is my core 10 posts regarding Yahoo and they make up most of my blog traffic. I actually had another post on how Carol Bartz was the worst pick as a Yahoo CEO but I erased it one day, actually my first day at Yahoo, thinking that someone might read it and fire me. The rest of the posts were all written after I left Yahoo.

I get emails from people saying I like to bash Yahoo but I don’t. I loved working there, I loved Yahoo before I worked there and I still love Yahoo. I write about it cause I think about it. I do not intend to cause any harm to people working there even if I am sometimes accused of that.

Here is the new article on Yahoo :: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/magazine/what-happened-when-marissa-mayer-tried-to-be-steve-jobs.html . It is a riveting read and of course the book will be a must read.

Nothing in the article is really news apart from the fact that it seems Marissa thinks a lot of herself and likes to be late to everything. I heard about the Ross story first hand and of course everyone knew Ross would quit right away. I personally think Ross should have had a shot at running Yahoo. He would have massively cut staff, it NEEDS to be cut, and he would have focused on the right bits. That would be a better course of action than doing nothing or trying to acquire everything. Yahoo could make money as a smaller, more nimble entity. Ross also wanted to buy Hulu but not sure that would have worked but I think trying a big acquisition is smarter than a bunch of small ones for the purposes of recruiting.

At first I was excited about the Marissa news but I had so many current and ex Google friends tell me what a mistake it was. In hindsight a lot of what they were saying was right. She is out of touch with reality, is not a great manager and is not the right fit for Yahoo. As I am in the States right now hanging with my folks, who use Yahoo religiously, I realize that people like my folks are Yahoo’s current target user base for the USA. Yahoo may not like that fact but it is true. They use Yahoo mail, front page, news, weather and the yahoo news digest app. They used to use messenger but let’s be honest – no one uses messenger anymore. It’s dead. Huge, huge mistake for Yahoo to lose out on the messaging craze. Huge.

Enter Marissa, a CEO who knows little about my parents. Marissa is too wealthy, sheltered and full of herself to ever understand my parents. Yes – I know a lot of tech CEOs are out of touch with my mom and dad but the difference is Yahoo needs turing around, Yahoo’s strength is folks like my mom and dad and it will take knowing them to serve them. I know Yahoo wants the young ones but that ain’t happening. In fact, I am not my parents or a young one but I don’t use Yahoo anymore either. That’s the problem really – no one is really waking up everyday and checking Yahoo like they used to.

On this point one has to hand it to Gruber for somewhat nailing the decline of Yahoo :: http://daringfireball.net/2014/12/yahoo_decline . I don’t disagree with him on what happened but I don’t think those mistakes spelt the end of Yahoo. What cooked Yahoo was years and years of not changing course.

Yahoo knew the old stuff was dying and the new web was taking over – but they didn’t respond to it at all.

They missed mobile, then they missed apps, they missed the emerging markets and they blew their Asian deals. Let me be clear here – Yahoo made money on both their Alibaba and their Softbank deal but what they never did is take advantage of those deals. They should have learned how to import stuff from Japan and China back into the States. They should have worked closely with Alibaba and Softbank on Southeast Asia, India and North Asia. Yahoo had huge leads in these markets and now they have virtually nothing. Korea closed. Yahoo Japan is not Yahoo. There is no Yahoo in China. They are dying in Southeast Asia. Properly executing in Asia could have done a lot for Yahoo in the big picture. They let it all die.

I agree with Gruber that a comeback is highly unlikely but along the way they could have fallen less farther than they did. As to now – I don’t know if it can bounce back. It may just be too late. Apart from Flickr I use nothing from Yahoo and they could spin that off if it were up to me. Their mail sucks. Their messenger sucks. I never hit the front page. The new digest thing was interesting but too fluffy and not customizable enough for my tastes. There is just nothing interesting about Yahoo and to top it off – I live in Asia – Yahoo in Asia is even worse than Yahoo in the States. 

Yahoo makes money. They have too many people. They still need to cut back and focus. Then they would make even more money.

As to a Yahoo/AOL thing. Kill me if this happens.

Maybe Alibaba or Softbank might try to buy them. At least that would be interesting.

 

More app bashing

I wrote about some of this earlier :: http://www.nokpis.com/2014/11/23/the-web-is-dying-2/ – lots of chatter on how apps are killing the web.

Now the father of the web is bashing apps :: http://venturebeat.com/2014/12/10/is-the-web-dead-no-says-tim-berners-lee-but-native-apps-are-boring/ .

I think apps are part of the web and when I look at my own parents behavior – apps have opened up new options for them but I admit they look at websites a lot. They use their iPad for this mostly and it stuns me how bad many websites are on their iPad. Seems a lot of companies have no clue about responsive web.

If the crime is that companies build apps and lead with them instead of apps plus responsive websites then yes – that’s a problem. But apps in and of themselves are not the issue.

When Tim talks about openness, sharing and liking my take is I can share stuff from apps and most of the open web is full of vile comments. I am not clear where the issues are but I think apps work and the web is still growing.

What I am not clear is why this topic is still important. Apps are the web.

Mozilla caving bit by bit

Not sure if it is the new management or just that they are finally waking up to de-facto versus real standards. I am a mozilla fan but they astound me at times when their decisions.

Gruber covering their iOS moves :: http://daringfireball.net/2014/12/mozilla_firefox_ios

Notice the callout on H264 video.

I am still baffled that on top of H264 they pretend HLS doesn’t exist – http://www.nokpis.com/2014/10/15/silly-mozilla/

Mozilla is a strange beast but I am happy to have them in the game – I think we all benefit from it but they could do a better job at making things people use and need versus pretend that standards always win.

Good luck to them!

Things about America

This is the longest trip back to my homeland in a very long time. Since it is not a business trip I am basically experiencing life again like when I lived here. Which is fun and slightly eye opening since for the last 10+ years I have been centered in Asia.

Around my home area, where I am staying, it feels like nothing has changed much at all. Everyone is older, as I am, and all the same houses are there but with new faces in many of them.

Things that still amaze me are the big box stores that have huge boxes of everything- massive amounts of home electronics, tons of people and the inability to escape the cash register for anything less than 300 USD. I go every trip though to stock up on socks and underwear.

The growth of whole food’s like stores and whole food’s itself is something new. I assume most of it is overpriced nonsense but the selection and quality is pretty amazing. So far this trend hasn’t hit Asia but I can see that it might over time.

What’s strange to me is it still feels like I can buy a pair of shoes made in Asia cheaper in America than in Singapore. Not sure how to grok that one yet.

As we make our way down to Disneyland I am reminded that America is huge and pretty useless without a car. Once you have to live in rural America you must have a car. Must. It’s only the cities that allow non car living. I enjoy the convenience of it but back in Singapore I don’t have or feel like I need one.

Everything is too big. Everywhere you eat the portions are insane and it seems people’s bodies slowly catch up to being able to consume the ultra large portions. People look bigger to me.

Although the market is huge in America I feel like the opportunity to build things and carve into new markets that have better connectivity and a proclivity for mobile devices feels more appealing. It may not be true but it I like building for Asia and the globe more than for America and the globe but it could be that it’s just a feeling more than reality.

That being said I am stunned how bad mobile data is here outside the cities and how crappy rural Internet is. Coming from even Thailand I feel like the Internet is more expensive and slower in rural America than Thailand – apart from the great Thai firewall issues.

My parents live in Alta, CA and they have DSL from ATT that is just crap. I think it is a 5mbps line that barely gets 3 on a good day. There is no other option for them except for some line of sight service that isn’t very reliable.

Might be okay if one could tether their mobile phone but ATT gets like 2 bars there and TMobile won’t work at all. As we drive I5 to Disneyland from Alta I am amazed at how often both our phones have no signal or have edge versus real data. It’s like I am in an emergent market or something – just stunning how America got into this backwater Internet position.

What is absolutely amazing and what gets me thinking about moving back at times though is how beautiful California is and how much I miss the outdoors. The walks, the trees, the oceans, and the mountains are just incredible. Really is no other place like it on earth.

Back to the roadtrip and my shitty gprs connection.

The web is dying

There has been a string of posts lately discussing how the web is dying. I just find it weird because folks are acting like the web means using web browsers to view web pages. Seems such a silly notion of what the web is since to me it is just a fabric of connectivity that allows people to use browsers to look at content, it allows people to use apps like Spuul to watch movies or enables small devices to monitor a house from afar. Such a limited vision to say the web is about browsers and web pages.

First article was Farhad, who I like, talking about how the banner ad ruined the web. I get what he is trying to say but I don’t side with it. I think apps are just easier to use for the most part and normally I am holding my phone but I don’t think banner ads force me to use apps. Banners ads have ruined the experience of a lot of web pages but I think people tend to just go to other sites or use the app from the same provider. Not sure a case can be made that banners ads are destroying the web.

As always when tech journalists make such claims other journalists chime in on twitter.

Here is one good thread :: https://storify.com/dreampipe/conversation-with-mathewi-fmanjoo-and-digiphile

Some tweets to refute the advertising claims made about banners :: https://twitter.com/benkunz/status/530189087198572544

This one was funny and Farhad replied :: https://storify.com/dreampipe/conversation-with-benkunz-and-fmanjoo

I realize I don’t look at a lot of sites and the ones I do either don’t abuse banners or they don’t bug me but I know when I do hit a site with a horrid array of banners, popovers, popunders and such – I just bail. I am sure others do but guessing enough don’t to keep everything intact and working.

My premise is the web is not dying and banners exist and work. Like it or not.

Further to this Gruber writes about how apps are part of the web – I tend to agree. The web is much bigger and more successful due to the advent of smartphones and smartphone apps. We could talk a lot about how some experiences might be better as a web page versus an app or how some apps make for terrible apps just like some web pages are horrible too but this is all about user experience. It is not an issue with the web or issues about an app versus the web. Users can vote by using whatever interface they like but regardless it is all the web.

In closing, the web is thriving – no matter how you look at it.

 

Android first

Marco is obviously a very successful guy but I think this is where he and a lot of people from the states and Europe miss the boat sometimes – they clearly don’t understand the emerging markets and the freedom developers have around Android when it comes to telcos and bizdev. Given this – for some apps going Android first may make a ton of sense.

http://www.marco.org/2014/11/07/business-insider-maintains-usual-level-of-quality

The next, new thing is …. Mobile.

Great deck by Benedict Evans :: http://a16z.com/2014/10/28/mobile-is-eating-the-world/

Video of the presentation :: http://a16z.com/2014/10/29/how-mobile-is-enabling-tech-to-outgrow-the-tech-industry/

He strikes me as the new Mary Meeker but needs to make longer decks first. 😉

Some good factoids in the deck but the common refrain from Benedict that one easily picks up on is that mobile is the next thing. Sure there will be other inventions and trends – health stuff, space stuff and so on but for the everyday person and the everyday product person the biggest thing to work on is mobile.

A great quote for this:

For the first time, tech is selling to everyone.

and

Everyone gets a pocket supercomputer.

We honestly have not built yet a world that could exist when everyone has a supercomputer in their pocket with fast connectivity.

So people always look at me funny at work when they ask what’s the next thing. I always say making mobile insanely better than it is and figuring out what new things we can do with mobile that we haven’t thought of yet.

Much left to do and to be fair most apps are still pretty shitty.