Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Withings Activite is an analog styled watch with fitness tracking capabilities. As GigaOm describes it:

The Activite can track calories, steps, running workouts, and sleep. It’s even waterproof, and Withings hopes to add a swimming workout mode soon.

The watch looks great. Gorgeous even. I like how there’s a secondary dial that shows you how close you are to your steps goal.

However, this would make a poor fitness tracker. Here’s why: first, a watch is fundamentally different from a fitness band; and second, data from the Activite will live in isolation from all your other health data.

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As Stratechery pointed out, it’s conventional wisdom that Xiaomi is an Internet services company. That selling smartphones at break-even prices is merely a gateway for selling profitable services. Except this might all just be a marketing ploy, because Xiaomi does make money from hardware, and quite a lot of it.

As much as 92% of Xiaomi’s 3.46 billion yuan profit (or $566 million US dollars) is from hardware. That’s profit, not revenue.

Let’s start with how Xiaomi’s CEO, Lei Jun, describes the company:

We’re actually an Internet company. We’ve already got a business in mobile phone hardware and we want to add to that an Internet platform. We can earn money from that, once it’s established. People just don’t get it. The mobile phone itself is only the carrier. Microsoft used to sell Windows in a box with a CD in it. Does that make Microsoft a paper box company? The box and the CD are only the carrier. If people don’t understand this, they can’t understand [Xiaomi].

Wouldn’t Microsoft be a paper box company if paper boxes actually generated 92% of its profit? If people cared more about the paper box than whatever’s inside?

An Internet company might be what Lei Jun wants Xiaomi to be one day, but right now it’s squarely a smartphone company.

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The Internet is in a tizzy now that editing documents in Office for iOS and Android is free for non-businesses. Remember when Microsoft finally made Windows Phone free for OEMs? We all thought, it’s about time, by which of course means it’s too late. The fact that people are surprised by this particular move means it’s not too late.

It’s actually not that crazy of a move. 90% of Office’s revenue comes from businesses (if memory serves me correctly), so there’s not much cannibalization at risk. Further, Microsoft was never been able to monetize Office on the web or on mobile.

People don’t get Office 365 just so they can edit documents on their iPads; they get Office 365 for the PC and iPad compatibility is just a bonus. Creating and editing Office documents on mobile remains a niche activity; and arguably one that average consumers aren’t currently willing to pay for.

Think of Office on mobile devices as an extension of Office on the web — something free for light users but not a replacement for heavy users, who still prefer PCs with large screens and keyboards to do work.

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Along with the Nexus Player, which disappointed, Google’s Nexus 9 was also recently released and reviewed. It’s been described as having an OK display; good but not jaw dropping performance; above average speakers; nice feel but with small, noticeable flaws; and generally not something that beats the iPad given its $400 price. Lollipop is awesome as expected.

That’s all well and good, but there are two things about the Nexus 9 I was particularly interested in from an industry point of view:

  1. The Nexus 9’s size and weight
  2. Its dedicated keyboard cover

Is the 9-inch display the best of two worlds, or the worst? Is the Nexus 9 an appreciably good productivity device?

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When Google announced its new Nexus line of products, I was most excited about the Nexus Player. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Google succeeded in creating a breakthrough product. Yet anyway.

Ars Technica has a great review which you can read here. The summary:

Unfortunately for Google’s living room ambitions, the Nexus Player isn’t very good. Despite the company’s experience with Google TV, the Nexus Player and Android TV are first-gen products with lots of first-gen problems. The hardware/software combo flops on many of the basics—such as playing video smoothly—and doesn’t deliver on any of the compelling experiences “Android on your TV” would seem able to provide. Apps and games are presumably supposed to be the big differentiator here from the Chromecast and Apple TV, but the Play Store interface is clunky and, instead of 1.4 million Android apps, you get access to about 70. It’s also pretty buggy.

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Have you heard about Destiny? It’s a videogame created by Bungie, the studio that developed Halo, which is in itself notable, but the real headliner is Activision’s claim that it’s backing Destiny with a $500 million budget. That’s half a billion dollars for an original intellectual property. Wow!

It’s not like the money is all spent; my understanding is that budget includes marketing, future add-on content (for example, a $20 DLC has already been announced for December) and maintenance. Nevertheless, it’s an insane number for a game that may or may not last. Has any brand new property been burdened with so much hype?

Unfortunately, Destiny launched to tepid reviews — it has an aggregate score of 76 on Metacritic. Which is good but not great, especially considering the gargantuan budget. Compare that with two other original IP shooters that debuted this current console generation: 86 for Titanfall and 82 for Sunset Overdrive.

I got Destiny anyway and to my surprise actually kind of like it.

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