HTC lose half of its market cap in four months

Ars Technica reported on how standing still caused HTC to lose half of its market cap in four months.

Have you heard about HTC lately? 2015 is shaping up to be an awful year for the company. In March the company had a market cap of $4.06 billion, and today—only a few months later—it’s worth less than half of that. The stock price, at about two bucks a share, is at a 10-year low. HTC just wrapped up the second quarter of 2015, where it posted a net loss of $258 million. And the trend is downwards—year over year, HTC’s monthly revenue was down 38% in April, 48% in May, and 60% in June. Will July be even worse? HTC is back to being that struggling OEM that feels like it could be permanently knocked out of the race at any time. There’s even been talk of the company being acquired.

The race to the bottom is always ugly.

The latest Flash zero-day is no joke

Tim Murtaugh wrote on A List Apart about the latest Flash zero day vulnerability.

Flash gets updated a lot, often for security purposes. What usually happens is a security firm, or a hacker looking for a bounty, or Adobe itself will find a vulnerability, and the Flash team will quietly patch their software before the exploit becomes widely known. This time, the exploit is already out there, and is quickly making its way into malware tools.

So, I assume you’re already multi-tasking and disabling Flash in your browsers. (Here’s how to disable Flash in Chrome. And Safari. And Firefox. And IE.)

I recommend a better practice. Don’t even install Flash.

Read it later

The folks over at The Sweet Setup have done a nice review of the current crop of Read It Later services. If you’re just getting into the act of saving articles for offline reading, it’s a good place to start.

But even more importantly, you don’t always have time to read an article the first moment you come across it. Ideally, you could have a place to store those articles for later when you actually have the time to curl up on that couch. Depending on the website, reading on the web can often be a hostile experience with distracting ads, over-pagination, requests to sign up for newsletters, and spammy “promoted stories from around the web” cluttering up your reading and making you question the moral fabric of human civilization.

Read-it-later services can solve all of these problems, helping you save articles to read on your preferred device in a much friendlier, more beautiful format. You could think of these services like Tivo for the Internet. As you browse the web during the day, you can pick and choose the things you want to read, and at night, instead of continuing to browse, you have a hand-picked selection of great material ready for you to read.

My first encounter with these apps was with Marco Arment’s Instapaper, which I loved to bits. Eventually I moved to Pocket and stayed there till today. Deciding on which one to use is really more a matter of preference, so go ahead and try whichever one you please.

Doug Menuez on Steve Jobs

NextShark reported on Doug Menuez, the man who spent 3 years with Steve Jobs after he got fired from Apple.

Menuez on entrepreneurship:

I think there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening all over the world. There’s a whole new generation of young, hungry entrepreneurs and innovators coming and I wanna help inspire through sharing stories. One of the feedbacks that I get is that people don’t always realize how hard it was in the 80s and the sacrifices that were made, and I think that helps people when they start hitting the wall. If you’re in your first startup and you’re hitting a wall, it’s pretty frustrating and pretty scary and frightening, and it’s good to know what other people went through just so you have some solidarity and keep fighting. Steve [Jobs] failed for 10 years; he struggled and failed and he was humiliated by the press after he left Apple. A lot of people today don’t realize it. They know how successful he is today, but they don’t realize how hard he worked to make the comeback.

Tim Cook’s speech on encryption and privacy

Matthew Panzarino wrote on TechCrunch about [Tim Cook’s blistering speech on encryption and privacy](( at EPIC’s Champions of Freedom event.

Cook lost no time in directing comments at companies (obviously, though not explicitly) like Facebook and Google, which rely on advertising to users based on the data they collect from them for a portion, if not a majority, of their income.

“I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” said Cook. “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.” […]

“We shouldn’t ask our customers to make a tradeoff between privacy and security. We need to offer them the best of both,” Cook wrapped up. “Ultimately, protecting someone else’s data protects all of us.”

Apple Music audio quality

Tech Radar wrote about issues they want Apple Music to fix.

Surprisingly, Apple Music streams at a bitrate of 256 kbps, which is lower than most of its competitors. Spotify, Rdio, MOG and even Beats Music, which Apple Music’s streaming foundation is built on, all stream at 320 kbps (Beats Music still streams at this quality on Android and Windows Phone devices, rubbing even more salt on our wounds).

And then there’s Tidal, which manages to stream its music at the lossless FLAC bitrate of 1411 kbps. So what gives, Apple? Why is the biggest and baddest new streaming service on the block peddling inferior audio quality?

You would think that an article about music streaming would be written by someone with some knowledge about how digital music works, or at least research about it before publishing a post. Beats streamed 320 kbps MP3 files, while Spotify a variety of files. Apple Music streams 256 kbps ACC files.

256 kbps ACC files are comparable to 320 kbps MP3 files, and people find the lower bitrate AAC having higher fidelity, but apparently Tech Radar and several other writers only look at the bitrate and accuse Apple Music of serving inferior quality.

Spotify streams MP3 files at 96 kbps on mobile and 160 kbps on desktop and web player for the free service. It streams 320 kbps Ogg Vorbis files for Premium subscribers.

No, Apple is not adding DRM to songs on your Mac you already own

Serenity Caldwell wrote on iMore explained why Apple Music adds DRM tracks.

Just like every other streaming service, Apple adds a DRM (digital rights management) layer to its streaming music collection. This keeps you from getting a subscription, downloading a ton of music in month one, then canceling the subscription. Instead, if you cancel Apple Music, all that streaming music becomes inoperable. […]

Then, any songs it can’t match, it uploads directly to iCloud; when you download a copy of those songs on a different device, you’re getting the same file you had on your Mac.

So what gets DRM? Any matched track you download to another device. It gets DRM because the file itself is coming directly from the Apple Music catalog, which, as we established above, has DRM on it.

Uploaded tracks that you re-download will never get DRM, because they’re not coming from the Apple Music catalog.

Mass panic because “journalists” jumped to conclusions instead of investigating before they write.

DuckDuckGo bangs

The Next Web wrote about DuckDuckGo bangs.

While its main draw is privacy, DuckDuckGo has another killer feature you may not have heard of. In fact, it should cause you to consider ditching your existing search engine for DuckDuckGo — yes, even Google. I’m talking about bangs.

Bangs have transformed how I search ever since I switched to DuckDuckGo as my default search engine when iOS 8 was released.

What does Android mean?

Benedict Evans wrote about Android taxonomies.

First, there are actually (at least) six types of ‘Android’ in the market today:

  1. ‘Stock’ Android, as seen on Google’s Nexus devices, complete with Google services (but with tiny unit sales)
  2. ‘Modified’ Android, as seen on phones from Samsung, Sony, LG etc, complete with Google services – generally, these are modifications that no-one especially likes, but which Google explicitly allows
  3. ‘AOSP’ or open Android, as seen in China – essentially these phones are the same as number 2, but with no Google services and apps from the Chinese portals embedded instead. Hence Samsung, Sony etc sell their phones in China without Google services, but few other changes
  4. (or perhaps 3.1) ‘Modified’ Android as seen on Xiaomi phones and those of its followers, which people actually seek out, and which comes without Google services in China and with them elsewhere
    ROMs and third-party implementations of Android that are available for any handset, such as both Xiaomi’s MIUI and Cyanogen (an a16z portfolio company), which may or may not have Google services included or accessible. Again, these contain optimisations and improvements that make people seek them out
  5. Forked Android, such as the Kindle Fire phone: Android heavily modified to produce a different experience, and Google refuses to allow Google services to run on them (other than plain old web search, AKA POWS). Note that Xiaomi and Cyanogen are not forks.

The first two or perhaps three I would describe as ‘closed’ Android and the second three are ‘open’ Android, certainly from the perspective of device manufacturers.

Confusing. But at least know that they are not the same.

Why Android Pay isn’t really about payments at all wrote about why Android Pay isn’t really about payments at all.

Which means that it has a huge fragmentation problem staring it right in the face – a huge obstacle when trying to replicate an Apple-like strategy.

At its launch, Google announced that Android Pay would be supported on devices running KitKat and higher. That’s roughly 44 percent of Android enabled devices, and none of those that operate a forked version of Android, like the Amazon Fire phone, for instance or Samsung’s Tizen.

Device fragmentation. Android’s familiar foe.

In the U.S., as of March 2015, comScore says that 187 million people own smartphones.

Android has a 52.4 percent of that market – so some 97 million phones run the Android operating system.

That actually beats Apple by a whole lot – like 17 million.

But only 44 percent of those handsets run a version of KitKat and higher. Less than 5 percent run Lollipop, its most current version.

That reduces the number of phones with KitKat or higher to roughly 42 million phones.

A rough guesstimate of how many of those 42 million are NFC enabled – and therefore ready to rock it with Android Pay – is 6 million. (In 2013, 18 percent of all handsets shipped were NFC enabled – and 80 percent of those were Android. So, 18 percent of 42 million and then 80 percent of that number is 6 million.)

How does Apple fare then?

Kantar’s latest reports say that 18 percent of the 80 million iPhones in the U.S. are 6’s – that’s 14.4 million phones ready and able to enable Apple Pay. That doesn’t translate to Apple Pay usage, we estimate the number of active users to be ~600k – but simply estimates the size of the addressable market for Apple Pay.

That means that out of the gate, Google Android Pay has about half (57 percent) of the addressable market that Apple Pay has.

But being able to use a particular payment mode doesn’t translate to actual spending power. So let’s look at spending power analysis.

According to Pew’s latest study of smartphone demographics- which was done before the iPhone 6 was released – and before all of the stats about Apple’s ability to attract “switchers” were too – the differences were stark.

  • 31 percent of adults earning more than $75k owned a phone running an Android operating system, compared to 40 percent with Apple phones;
  • 28 percent of adults earning under $30k own Android phones, compared to 18 percent with Apple phones;
  • 29 percent of Android users are college educated, compared with 38 percent of Apple phone owners;

All of which suggests strongly that the commerce advantage goes to Apple.

Not only are there more Apple users in the upper income categories but more of them are concentrated in their peak spending years. In fact, we estimated a year or so ago, that roughly 66 percent of retail spend in the U.S. is driven by those who own iPhones.

So what drives Google to push for Android Pay then?

A New York Times article last week extracted data from a Goldman Sachs report on Google’s search revenue challenges. In it, it was reported that this year – 2015 – Google’s ad revenue will be split 58/23 desktop to mobile. In 2016, that’s expected to adjust further to 54/27. It isn’t hard to imagine that by 2020, those numbers will not only flip as “mobile” expands to become wearables, cars and a collection of other connected devices that consumers own and use but change entirely as search becomes less about using search engines and more about consumers using apps to find the things they want to buy.

That detail suddenly becomes pretty important since mobile ad revenue, on a good day, clocks in at a lot less than desktop revenues. More mobile search means less search revenue even if volume is increasing. All you have to do is review Google’s last couple of years of earnings reports to see the impact that it’s already having on its revenue.

The shift to mobile search poses a bigger threat when you look at the sources of these searches:

Approximately 75 percent of Google’s mobile search revenue is the result of people using iPhones and iPads to find things on their path to purchase. A search initiated via Safari is actually powered by Google.

I see it as a matter of when, not if, that Apple would replace the default search in Safari with another search engine, such as DuckDuckGo.