What makes Apple’s new alliance with Amazon and Google so significant for Tim Cook’s Apple.

The headline from the announcement on Apple’s Newsroom
Image via Apple.com

Ever since Tim Cook has become CEO of Apple, the company has been more open to cooperating with its competitors. Through moves like putting the Apple TV app on non-Apple smart tis and finally allowing Siri support for Spotify, Apple has demonstrated that its isolationist ways are behind them, with the company embracing new policies of cooperation with other companies. Today, Apple took the biggest step in working with other rivaled companies. In an Apple newsroom briefing, the company announced an alliance with Google, Amazon, and Zigbee Alliance ( group of companies that make smart home products like Phillips and Ike that have a reestablished standard for smart home products). The four have allied with each other with the goal of creating a uniform smart home experience that will hopefully make smart home devices more user friendly and accessible. Prior to this arrangement, these parties each had their own proprietary smart home standard. This often made it difficult for users to distinguish which smart home products worked with their devices and could often restrict them from buying smart home devices that might not work within the ecosystem they were locked into. What makes this alliance particularly significant for Apple is the shift in their policy that this agreement signifies. While, as I previously stated, Apple has been cooperating with other companies more recently, all of these cooperations had some aspect that was beneficial for Apple. In the case of putting the Apple TV app on non-Apple smart TVs, Apple was able to expand the viewer base of their streaming service, Apple TV+, to people who may not be in the Apple Ecosystem. Apple benefited from allowing Siri to control Spotify as it gave people another reason to buy their smart speaker and helped to close the gap between Apple’s voice assistant and those of its competitors, like Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. What makes Apple’s alliance with the other companies different from prior instances of cooperation with competitors is that there is no real big financial incentive for Apple in this agreement. In fact, one could even say that Apple could lose money as part of this alliance due to the fact that they will no longer be able to charge a premium for the only smart home devices that work in their ecosystem. Apple is not in this alliance for financial gain, they are purely involved to make user’s experiences with their products more fluid and seamless. This is what makes it such an important moment for the current Apple and Tim Cook, as Cook’s background as an industrial engineer, a position that is essentially based around finding unique ways to cut costs and maximize profits, has been blamed for sacrificing user experience in the name of a profit, but this announcement clearly demonstrates that Apple still puts user experience above all.

Design of the Day 12/17/19: A Modern Day Polaroid

I wanted to make the Polaroid, a classic and iconic device which is notoriously ig and clunky, be more portable. So I dreamt up the idea of making the Polaroid foldable with a hinge in the center which is capped with two hooks for a shoulder strap. It doesn’t have a display on the rear as you would use your phone for the viewfinder to cut down on costs on an already obsolete device.

Why is it so hard to make a good game streaming service?

Google Stadia came out this November and has largely been seen as a flop.
Image Via ShareSTADIA

The Netflix of games, it sounds simple, doesn’t it. Well, apparently making a good game streaming service is harder than it sounds. Many companies, big and small, have tried to create such a promising service before. First it was OnLive, who produced a set top box device that could stream games to your living room for a monthly fee. While it showed promised, OnLive’s idea proved to be too far ahead of its time, and the company shut down in 2015. Then Nvidia tried to make their own vision of a games streaming product, which had promise thanks to the reputation of the company behind it. Like OnLive, however, Nvidia’s game streaming platform never got off the ground. Most recently, Google attempted to do the impossible with their take on game streaming service, called Stadia. However Stadia seems to have a similar fate as its ancestors from OnLive and Nvidia, as the platform has seen a plethora of issues since its launch in November. Foremost is the lack of a non premium option at launch, which forces users to cough up a hefty fee to pay for the “founders edition”, which is essentially a payed beta. Like a beta, Stadia has seen many software related issues, which include causing the phones and chrome casts that the platform is running on to overheat. Reports have also come out that, while Google promised games would be playable in 4K at launch, this is not the case for most of the current titles. These issues have caused many to preemptively shrug Stadia off as flop and has caused those who though that Google could finally succeed where companies like OnLive and Nvidia went wrong loose hope. But we can’t loose hope yet. While Google was making headlines for its buggy platform, Xbox was testing out its own game streaming service, called XCloud. Early testers praised the streaming service for finally cracking the nut on game streaming, and many of these testers seem to think that Xbox could finally be the one to succeed with game streaming. Xcloud uses a different approach from competitors. Instead of streaming games from a datacenter, Xcloud takes a path that better fits the technological landscape we are in right now rather than producing a platform that is ahead of its time, like its predecessors. Xcloud streams data from Xbox owners’ console to whatever device they want, allowing them to use entirely their own hardware, unlike other companies that essentially rent out pieces of their own hardware for you to use. Another benefit of Xbox’s product is that the company behind it is purely a video game company. In recent years, Xbox has become closer and closer to a synonym for gaming, and out of all of its predecessors and competitors, its foot is farthest in the door when it comes to gaming. These two advantages together could give Microsoft what it needs in order to finally succeed where the others before it have failed, but time will tell, Xcloud is said to launch sometime next year and we will have to wait and see if my predictions were right or if I will have a post titled exactly the same next year

With the Windows Phone officially dead, what is the future of Microsoft’s mobile endeavors?

The Microsoft Logo
Image via Microsoft

For a while, it seemed that the Windows phone could be a legitimate competitor to IOS and Android. Microsoft went big on the advertising game and platform began to see some widespread adoption. It quickly became clear, however, that Windows Mobile was not long for this world. From the very beginning, Microsoft had a problem trying to get developers to port their apps to their mobile platform, and when you don’t have any apps, users don’t want to use your porducts, and when you don’t have anybody using your products, developers don’t want to make apps for them. Microsoft never was able to break this vicious cycle and in 2017, Microsoft announced they were finally completely giving up on their system, effectively declaring it dead. Today marked the last day of the Windows 10 Store, which while barren back in the day, was especially empty now. But that begs the question, what will Microsoft do next? It’s indisputable that the PC is on its way out, and mobile devices are, currently, where the market is going. So what will Microsoft, a company that seemingly has most of its eggs in the PC basket, do to survive this mobile future? Right now the answer to that seems to be partnering with mobile companies like Samsung and Google, and using their platforms as gateways to get users into the Windows ecosystem. Microsoft partnered with Samsung to give their users exclusive Windows features when they plug their Smasung phones into Windows machines, and now, Microsoft has gone as far as to sell Samsung’s phones in their stores. Furthermore, Microsoft partnered with Google for their upcoming Surface Duo, a folding phone produced by Microsoft that will run Google’s Android. It seems that Microsoft is not putting their eggs in one basket after all, and instead trying to establish footholds in the Mobile world and seeing what sticks. While this could work out better than betting bug in one solution, it could come around to bite them, with a decentralized and disorganized product lineup that could hinder innovation and the quality of user experiences. While Microsoft has proven itself a force in the tech industry time and time again, it will be interesting to see how they handle the rapidly changing landscape and see if they can hold on and move forward, or fall back and become a footnote along the lines of IBM in the annuls of tech history.

An Apple enterprise only AR headset would betray everything the company stands for

The Microsoft Hololens
Image via ExtremeTech

Before 1977, computers were largely relegated to the business environment. In fact, at the time, many people didn’t even know what a computer was, sure they had heard about them, but most people only knew them as the room filling boxes as portrayed in science fiction. This all changed when Apple released the Apple II, and made the personal computer a household name. Augmented Reality, or AR for short, is in a similar position in 2019 as the computer was in the mid 1970. People have heard of AR before, some have even seen it in games and apps like Pokemon GO or Snapchat, but most people don’t know about AR outside of gimmicky entertainment or what it can really do. In the enterprise world, however, AR has been a presence for sometime now. Business have incorporated AR headsets into their workforces serving many different purposes and a majority of the AR headsets on the market have been made for the enterprise environment. Companies like Microsoft and Google have developed their own AR headsets targeted directly for enterprise use, with no offerings for standard consumers. Companies like Magic Leap have tried to do this, but their attempts have largely been seen as failures and their products have failed to escape a small tech savvy inner circle of users. If any company could finally break AR into the mainstream, its Apple. Using their brand-driven outreach, Apple could create a AR device that could generate a buzz similar to the iPhone or iPad at their releases, and amass a user base large enough to make the technology mainstream. Recent rumors, however, have said that Apple’s Ar headset will be less like Magic Leap’s attempts and more in line with those of Google and Microsoft. This would betray everything Steve Jobs did for the company and everything the company stands for. Apple is about making things accessible, whether that be new technologies, information, or through making difficult to use and clunky apps or devices into well designed and easy to navigate products. If the real Apple, the company that Steve Jobs started and the one based on his vision, made an AR headset, it would be accessibly priced and available to all, and it would change the world, just like the Apple II all those years ago.