Bill Gates: Here’s my plan to improve our world

Bill Gates shares on Wired his plan to improve the world.

This realization led me to rethink some of my assumptions about how the world improves. I am a devout fan of capitalism. It is the best system ever devised for making self-interest serve the wider interest. This system is responsible for many of the great advances that have improved the lives of billions—from airplanes to air-conditioning to computers.

But capitalism alone can’t address the needs of the very poor. This means market-driven innovation can actually widen the gap between rich and poor. I saw firsthand just how wide that gap was when I visited a slum in Durban, South Africa, in 2009. Seeing the open-pit latrine there was a humbling reminder of just how much I take modern plumbing for granted. Meanwhile, 2.5 billion people worldwide don’t have access to proper sanitation, a problem that contributes to the deaths of 1.5 million children a year.

The article is a very good read. Take the time to go through it. And then sit down and reflect upon yourself.

Twitter custom timelines

Twitter has announced a new feature: custom timelines. Available on Tweetdeck.

Custom timelines are a new type of timeline you control: you create the timeline, give it a name, and select which Tweets to add, either by hand or programmatically using the API. Timelines are public, have their own pages on twitter.com, and can easily be embedded on your website. The rest is up to you.

Finally, a way to properly organise the chaos that is twitter timeline. Lists helped to make it keep up with tweets easier but managing our tweets has always been out of our control.

Apple’s surprising growth in Japan

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mayumi Negishi report for the Wall Street Journal on Japan being Apple’s fastest-growing market in the past two years.

“Apple’s brand is just overwhelming here,” said Eiji Mori, a Tokyo-based analyst at BCN Inc. “It’s not about specifications. It’s not about rationale. It’s about owning an iPhone.”

Two factors in the iPhone’s Japanese success are Japan’s wealth and the degree to which its phone market resembles the U.S., a “postpaid” market where the phones are subsidized by carriers and sold with multiyear contracts. “The U.S. and Japan are unique in that sense,” says Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Toni Sacconaghi.

In markets where most consumers pay for the handset upfront, the iPhone’s big price tag damps sales.

This is great news for Apple given how the Japanese market is traditionally biased towards Japanese handset makers. And it is also important to note that Japanese tend to shun Samsung because it is a Korean brand.

About that Bloomberg report on next year’s curved iPhones

John Gruber asks questions about the claims made in the Bloomberg article.

And whither the 4-inch display? I would like to see any report of next-generation iPhones with larger displays explain Apple’s plans for the existing 4-inch size. Would it be relegated only to the second-tier C-class model? Or would they continue to produce top-tier models at that size as well? A person familiar with Apple’s plans should be able to explain this.

Another thing I’d like to know about future iOS device displays sporting new physical dimensions — the pixel counts. Will they be like the iPad Air and Mini (same pixel count, different pixels-per-inch resolution)? Or will they introduce new pixel dimensions? Again, any person familiar with Apple’s plans should be able to answer that.

Vine finally arrives on Windows Phone

It’s further confirmation that Windows Phone is finally beginning to mature as a viable alternative to iOS and Android. With an official Instagram just around the corner, Windows Phone users certainly have cause for celebration.

Say hello to Vine for Windows Phone

Pitch your startup to business class passengers in the sky

So will airline pitches be the new elevator pitch?

Turkish Airlines is letting startups pitch to business class passengers during flights

Its new Invest On Board program streams pitch videos from startups to in-seat televisions for business class passengers. The project is run by Etohum, a Turkish startup accelerator modeled after Y Combinator and TechStars. The short videos, which run under two minutes, advertise mostly Turkey-based startups but also some foreign companies. Etohum is currently accepting applications to pitch on Turkish Airlines as well.

More signs that Apple is moving towards sapphire displays

This is a follow-up to Matt’s piece on Apple’s investment in synthetic sapphire.

TechCrunch talks about how Apple might have found a way to mass produce sapphire displays cheaper.

This brings us to a few months ago, when Apple filed a patent called ‘sapphire laminates’, in which it discusses a variety of ways to laminate sapphire sheets together with other sapphire sheets or with glass. There are a variety of abstractions, but the key is a method which mates two separate sheets together to create one ‘piece’. The key claim we’re looking at here is “a glass assembly comprising: a glass sheet; and a sapphire sheet adhered to the glass sheet, wherein the assembly is less than or approximately equal to 1 mm thick.”

This claim outlines a process where a glass sheet could be produced and mated with a sapphire sheet to create a screen (another claim describes a ‘sandwich process’ as well, with two sapphire sheets). Why a screen with glass underneath and sapphire on top?

Amazon packages to arrive on Sunday too

While there is an ongoing rush to achieve same-day delivery services, Amazon hasn’t lost focus that there are also customers who want to be able to receive their packages on a Sunday too.

Amazon forges new deal with USPS to deliver packages on Sundays

“If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can order a backpack for your child on Friday and be packing it for them Sunday night,” said Amazon VP of worldwide operations Dave Clark, in a statement. “We’re excited that now every day is an Amazon delivery day, and we know our Prime members, who voraciously shop on Amazon, will love the additional convenience they will experience as part of this new service.”

This deal is also a huge win for USPS as it wasn’t too long ago that it was trying to end deliveries on Saturday as a means to cut costs.

Race For Same-Day Delivery Could Be Boon For Cash-Strapped USPS

Post office officials proposed ending Saturday deliveries as a way to save money, but that idea was shot down by Congress. Geddes says lately the system has been looking for new ways to make money. For instance, it recently announced a pilot program setting up postal windows in Staples outlets in the San Francisco area. Geddes says measures like these are a step in the right direction. But he says they’re not enough by themselves to solve the huge problems the system faces.

Netflix and YouTube lead the online video race, leaving Amazon and Hulu far behind

Joshua Brustein reports on Businessweek the dominance of Netflix and YouTube in the online video industry.

Video always dominates these traffic surveys because of the vast amount of information required. Last year, for instance, Netflix and YouTube made up 47.8 percent of total downstream traffic what people are consuming rather than creating. This year the duo crossed the halfway point, hitting 50.3 percent. Netflix lost a bit of ground, while YouTube ticked up, but the rest of the online video pack sure doesn’t seem to be gaining much ground on the leaders.Notably lagging are two other widely discussed video services: Hulu and Amazon AMZN. Both companies are slipping from their already lowly traffic numbers: Amazon accounted for 1.6 percent of total downstream traffic in September, compared with an average of 1.75 percent in the second half of 2012. For Hulu, meanwhile, September’s 1.29 percent came up short of the 1.38 percent it captured last year.

One interesting thing of note from the report is the sharp drop in file sharing.

File sharing is losing ground. BitTorrent, the dominant file-sharing technology, accounted for only 7.4 percent of total traffic in September, down from more than 10 percent last year, and file sharing as a whole has dropped from 31 percent of traffic in 2008 to less than 10 percent today. If you want to argue that legal alternatives are the best way to cut down on piracy, this seems like a pretty compelling statistic.

Apple maps: how Google lost when everyone thought it had won

Charles Arthur reports on The Guardian how Google maps lost to Apple maps when everyone thought it had won.

The break with the iPhone came when Apple became frustrated in late 2009 by Google’s refusal to provide turn-by-turn navigation for maps on the iPhone – a feature which was available on Google’s own Android, and which is hugely useful for car drivers. “They broke their promise,” one Apple executive told the Guardian. Google also wanted to collect more data from Apple users via maps, such as through its Latitude product, and held off offering vector graphics (which store data more efficiently, and can work offline). That sparked Apple’s decision to develop its own maps offering, licensing data from TomTom and other providers.

According to ComScore, in September 2012 – just ahead of the introduction of Apple Maps – there were a total of 81.1m users of Google Maps, out of a total of 103.6m iPhones and Android phones users.

Latest figures from ComScore, published for September 2013, say that the total number of iPhones and Android phones in the US has grown to 136.7m, the number who used the Google Maps app has kept dropping – down to 58.8m – while the number of Apple Maps users stands at 35m out of a total iPhone population of 60.1m.

It also noted that iOS users tended to use maps more often – 9.7m used it once a day, against 7.2m for Android. In addition, iPhone users spent longer on maps than Android users – 75.5 minutes per month, against 56.2 minutes for Android.