Page 2 – The Tech News Debris for the Week of September 26th
The New Apple Echo Chamber
Bloomberg (Mark Gurman) is reporting that, according to people familiar with the matter,
Apple Inc. is pressing ahead with the development of an Echo-like smart-home device based on the Siri voice assistant….
Started more than two years ago, the project has exited the research and development lab and is now in prototype testing, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unannounced Apple projects.
As Mark Gurman explains it, Apple engineers were surprised at the Amazon Echo and its success. But how would Apple differentiate itself from the Echo? Part of it would be a more advanced microphone and speaker system. Another element would likely be a more advanced version of Siri, one that better understands its users.
The issue for Apple may well be that the Amazon Echo has a clear-cut business model: help customers buy the things they need more easily. Apple, on the other hand has struggled with its leadership in home automation. Customers haven’t yet seen compelling, consistent, secure home automation systems that fit into their current lives and make sense for the whole family.
The spectre of being locked out of the house or being spied on, with or without the developers knowledge, and the technical overhead it takes to develop an automated home is beyond the reach (or desire) of many. Meanwhile, the Amazon Echo just sits there and attends to its simple tasks: music, news, information queries, to do lists, timers and alarms, and help with placing Amazon orders.
By way of contrast, the Bloomberg article cites an extensive (and perhaps depressing) list of services Apple is experimenting with. Could it be that Amazon’s Big Data analysis of its customer habits is more effective than Apple’s engineering research? Just a thought.
And that may be the dilemma for Apple. What do customers really want to do, and how can they do it easily and non-technically? Surging beyond the Echo into new technical arenas, without a Amazon-like product inventory and/or a much more advanced Siri could take Apple down an uncomfortable, intractable technical path. On the other hand, limiting the Apple product to what the Echo can do today would seem like a limited, me-too effort.
And let’s not forget what Google is doing. “A High-Stakes Bet: Turning Google Assistant Into a ‘Star Trek’ Computer.” It’s a high-stakes endeavor for all.
Macs in Chemistry has compiled a list of scientific apps that run under macOS Sierra. Plus there’s a link on that page to previous lists for Yosemite and EL Capitan. This is a nice, focused counterpart to the more broad Roaring Apps, a broad, crowdsourced database of Mac apps compatible with each OS X/macOS release.
The New York Times asks a good question. “Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers. So Why Don’t They?” It’s a good discussion.
Back in 2014, I discussed an Apple patent that could block drivers from texting while driving. “Apple Plans to Block Drivers with iPhones From Texting.” At the time, I bet our Bryan Chaffin that Apple would bring this technology to the U.S. in two years.
I lost that bet.
Apparently the technique Apple uses to encrypt iOS backups is less robust than the one used in iOS9? A programming oops? Or a surreptitious attempt to appease the FBI? No one knows. See: “iPhone Hackers Say Apple Weakened Backup Security With iOS 10.” Forbes continues…
This article was updated … to include Apple’s statement that it was planning to address the weakness.
Finally, TechCrunch published a very good article on the federal policy for how “self-driving cars are developed, regulated, and policed in the U.S.” See: “Federal policy for self-driving cars pushes data sharing.” This includes a robust mechanism for access and analysis, by the NHTSA, of data collected from a crash.
Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.