CEOs of Facebook, Google and Yahoo to skip Obama’s cybersecurity summit

Bloomberg reported on three of tech’s top CEOs planning to skip President Obama’s cybersecurity summit.

Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt all were invited but won’t attend the public conference at Stanford University, according to the companies. Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook is planning to be at the event, where Obama is scheduled to give the keynote speech and have a private lunch with a select group of attendees.

You would think that the CEOs would be actively involved to show their commitment to information security and take an active role in fighting for the privacy rights of their users.

Difference in how Microsoft and Apple announce new products

Gus Muller wrote about how Microsoft and Apple handle expectations.

You know deep down that the HoloLens isn’t going to be what they say it is, because it never is with Microsoft. For a great example of this, read Ben Kuchera’s “Skeptical of HoloLens? It’s time to rewatch how Microsoft sold us on the Kinect”.

So we’re not really disappointed, because we know what to expect.

But for some reason, the HoloLens announcement has really been upsetting me over the last 12 hours or so. Why is MS selling people promises that they know they won’t deliver? Or at least can’t deliver for another five years? Why are you getting people excited? It’s a wonderful future you’ve got painted here, but we’ve seen this show before. You need to stop this behavior Microsoft, because isn’t helping, and I know it sounds odd coming from me, but I really do want your products to kick ass.

So when we watch the Microsoft keynote, we don’t get excited because we know what to expect. We’ve learned from past behavior not to competely believe what Microsoft is selling.

And this is why so many people love what Apple delivers. When Apple gives demos of their new product, they aren’t throwing in CG showing how they hope things will happen some day in the future. Instead they show the real deal. How it’s being used yesterday. And it’s those possibilities that get us excited. And Apple frames it so well. The product demos never show us at work (because who wants to get excited about work?), instead the demos show us how the product will be used in our life. How it can make the things we enjoy even better.

And that is probably the biggest difference between Apple and Microsoft. Apple knows when it’s time to show a new product. Apple knows when something is ready for real world use, and Apple won’t rush something out the door because of market pressures.

Something competitors need to learn to get consumers excited when they announce new products.

The work of Jeff Williams

John Gruber wrote about Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations.

First, in terms of iPhone operations and considering nothing else, Jeff Williams has clearly done an amazing job. Apple sold a record 74 million iPhones last quarter, and though the company doesn’t break that down by models for competitive reasons, everyone knows that a huge chunk of those were the brand-new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. They were supply-constrained on both models, particularly the 6 Plus, but only by a few weeks. Operationally Apple did an incredible job meeting demand for iPhones — they sold more than ever but were less supply-constrained than in the last few launch quarters. For context, in 2008, Apple sold a total 10 million iPhones for the entire year. All credit to the hardware, software, and product marketing teams for the fact that 74 million people wanted to buy an iPhone last quarter. But the credit goes to Williams’s operations team that there were 74 million units available to sell.

Second, iPhone manufacturing is not Williams’s only responsibility. He’s in charge of all operations, and company-wide, operations seems to be going as well or even better than they did while Tim Cook was COO alongside Steve Jobs. And, Williams is overseeing the team creating Apple Watch. No pressure there.

Siri is getting faster

John Gruber wrote about Siri’s improvements.

I’ve noticed over the past year that Siri is getting faster — both at parsing spoken input and returning results. I use iOS’s voice-to-text dictation feature on a near-daily basis, and it’s especially noticeable there. I’ve been using a Moto X running Android 5.0 the past few weeks, so today I did a side-by-side comparison between Siri and Android’s Google Voice Search, asking both the simple question, “What temperature is it outside?” Both phones were on the same Wi-Fi network. Siri was consistently as fast or faster. I made a video that shows them in pretty much a dead heat.

As Gruber rightly pointed out, it is not so much about whether Siri or Google Voice Search is faster, but rather a testimony of how Apple is catching up in terms of web services.

Samsung warns customers over listening TV

BBC reported on Samsung’s listening TV.

Samsung is warning customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set.

The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature.

When the feature is active, such TV sets “listen” to what is said and may share what they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said.

So what does Samsung do with the information it gathers?

The policy explains that the TV set will be listening to people in the same room to try to spot when commands or queries are issued via the remote. It goes on to say: “If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

Creepy.

Samsung TVs start inserting ads into your movies

Gigaom reported on Samsung TVs inserting ads into third party content.

Thought you could watch that video on your local hard drive without ads? Think again: A number of owners of Samsung’s smart TVs are reporting this week that their TV sets started to interrupt their movie viewing with Pepsi ads, which seem to be dynamically inserted into third-party content.

“Every movie I play 20-30 minutes in it plays the pepsi ad, no audio but crisp clear ad. It has happened on 6 movies today,” a user reported on Reddit, where a number of others were struggling with the same problem.

You pay for your device but you are forced to watch advertisements. If Samsung are earning from the ads, shouldn’t they be giving away the TV for free? Watch out for Samsung phones that forces you to watch advertisements.

Comcast renames customer SuperBitch Bauer

Wired reported on Comcast renaming a customer SuperBitch Bauer.

Yesterday Mary Bauer received her Comcast bill in the mail. But the 63-year-old Chicago area resident says she’s not going to open it. That’s because someone at Comcast switched her name on the bill, addressing it instead to “SuperBitch Bauer.”

Bauer has been having problems with Comcast for months. As she related her story to Chicago’s WGN television station, she’s had a lot of service and billing issues. Technicians have been dispatched to her place a whopping 39 times, and she recently got into it with telephone support after her bills stopped arriving.

This comes after Comcast renamed a customer Asshole Brown.

Gartner: Windows Phone to beat iPhone by 2015 (thanks to Nokia)

John Gruber shared an amusing claim chowder of the day.

Grartner predicted back in 2011:

Imagine a world where Windows Phone is more popular than Apple’s iPhone.

That may just sound like Steve Ballmer’s fantasy, but a recent Gartner report claims that it may very well happen by 2015, thanks to a boost from Nokia as Microsoft’s mobile partner.

The prediction is far from crazy: I’ve argued in the past that Microsoft will doggedly fight to reclaim its mobile relevance, and it could very well achieve that with Nokia being the premiere Windows Phone 7 device maker.

Difference between how Apple and Google are perceived

Ben Thompson wrote on Stratechery about bad assumptions.

And yet, the perception that Apple is somehow hanging on by the skin of their teeth persists. I was speaking to someone about Apple’s particularly excellent China results this afternoon, and was struck at how their questions were so focused on threats to Apple – “How will Apple respond to Xiaomi” for example. This is in stark contrast to the way most think about a company like Google, where their dominance in whatever field they choose to enter is assumed, just as Microsoft’s was a decade ago. Apple, though, is always a step away from catastrophe.

It’s difficult to overstate just how absurd this is, but here’s my best attempt: last quarter Apple’s revenue was downright decimated by the strengthening U.S. dollar; currency fluctuations reduced Apple’s revenue by 5% – a cool $3.73 billion dollars. That, though, is more than Google made in profit last quarter ($2.83 billion). Apple lost more money to currency fluctuations than Google makes in a quarter. And yet it’s Google that is feared, and Apple that is feared for.

To quote a comment I came across: Apple has been feared for since 1987, but people still assume the worst.

Samsung’s mobile profits plunge 64.2% after Apple’s iPhone 6 devastates premium Galaxy sales

AppleInsider reported on Samsung’s mobile profits plunging 64.2%.

Samsung Electronics reported overall Q4 operating profits of 5.29 trillion won ($4.9 billion)—a 36 percent year-over-year drop—but its Mobile division suffered a 64.2 percent drop in profits, falling from $5 billion in the year ago quarter to $1.8 billion in the December quarter.

How does that affect Samsung as a whole?

At the beginning of 2014, Samsung IM was contributing 70 percent of the company’s profits, primarily from smartphone sales, specifically from sales of its higher end Galaxy S and Note devices. Mobile division sales, which also include Samsung’s Chromebooks, Windows products and Galaxy Tab tablets, currently account for only 37 percent of the company’s profits.

How does that compare to Apple’s profits?

Apple’s overall operating profits for the quarter were $24.2 billion, up 36.9 percent over the year ago quarter. That means Samsung Mobile is now earning less than 7.5 percent of Apple’s profits while still shipping more phone units.