Smart 4K/UHD TVs Could Stop Apple TV Growth Cold

| Particle Debris

Page 2 – News Debris For The Week Of July 10th
AI Privacy vs. Performance

We’ve heard this tune before. For a personal AI to work well, it has to know a lot about you and place it all into proper context. However, our personal devices don’t have the processing power to work at the highest level, so the processing has to be done on a remote supercomputer. This invokes privacy concerns. For example, that server data has to be maintained to continue constructing a knowledge base. It can probably be investigated, mined, hacked or even accessed with a lawful warrant.

Apple's Siri is a strong contender

Can Siri, handcuffed by privacy concerns, keep up?

Apple has taken a strong stand on personal privacy. Tim Cook has punctuated Apple’s philosophy several times by emphasizing that his company doesn’t really have an interest in your personal affairs, habits, purchases, and inclinations. By putting limits on what Siri can do, Apple is fulfilling that promise. But will that cause Apple to fall behind the more intrusive, all-encompassing competition? For an analysis, see this essay by Tom Simonite at Wired : “Apple’s Privacy Pledge Complicates Its Ai Push.

This is an interesting case where focusing on “the best” may not be a great competitive position. We’ll have to wait and see how well Apple persuades its customers.

More Debris

What killed the Windows Phone? Was it Microsoft’s ineptness? Was it Apple? Writing for The Verge, Dieter Bohn constructs the case that it was Android that killed Windows Phone.

Not long ago, facial recognition was the stuff of fictional police stories on TV. However, today, it’s very real. Leaks suggest that Apple will be using facial recognition to replace (or augment) Touch ID. This story at ars technica by David Kravets shows it put to good use in law enforcement.

Consider that Nevada authorities have announced that biometrics was behind the arrest of a violent criminal who escaped from prison 25 years ago. It’s another in a string of arrests in which biometrics essentially paved the way for a bad guy’s capture.

See: “Biometrics catches violent fugitive 25 years on the run.” The kinds of technologies come in four stages. 1) Science Fiction popularization 2) Research news, 3) Frequent, routine use that also makes news, and 4) Unintended social complexities and consequences. Right now, we’re in stage #3.

Another AI-based technology that’s now in Phase 3 is Microsoft’s new iOS app, “Seeing AI…” From The Verge:


Microsoft: Seeing AI.

…a smartphone app that uses computer vision to describe the world for the visually impaired. With the app downloaded, the users can point their phone’s camera at a person and it’ll say who they are and how they’re feeling. They can also point it at a product and it’ll tell them what it is. All of this is done using artificial intelligence that runs locally on their phone.

See: “Microsoft’s new iPhone app narrates the world for blind people.” I haven’t had a chance to try this out yet. If you do, tell me what you think.

By now you know that if you get an email from what seems to be your bank, asking you to either login or click on an attachment, that’s a phishing scam. The onslaught continues, and while you may be educated about such attempts, it’s always to good to monitor the state-of-the-art and stay on top of things: “Watch out for this money stealing macOS malware which mimics your online bank.

How well a new iPhone does each September depends on several things. But one of the factors is the history of adoption (recent models) and how strongly the customers feels about upgrading to a new iPhone. This lag used to be a two year cycle when iPhones were changing fast and were mostly subsidized. Today, it’s drifting into the three year mark. And so, it’s helpful to see what the market penetration was three years ago. That would be the iPhone 6. That model sold really well, according to this chart from Statista and Business Insider.

Offsetting that will be the jazz associated with the iPhone 8. And so, while the (mythical) iPhone 7s and 7s Plus might suffer a bit, sales could be fueled by the 10th anniversary iPhone 8. As BI concludes:

To be clear, Apple is going to sell hundreds of millions of iPhones. It’s the iPhone. Even if the average smartphone’s life is growing, many people just won’t stay with the same phone for four years straight. But Apple will have a little more pressure to deliver than usual, particularly in areas where its users aren’t as loyal.

Finally, some serious fun. Disney has released Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with High Dynamic Range video and Dolby Atmos audio. OMG.

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 holiday weekends.

14 Comments Add a comment

  1. geoduck

    One factor impacting adoption of the new iPhone model is the economy. I don’t want this to decay into a political discussion but there’s a lot of worry out there about what’s going to happen to the US economy in the next 6 months or year. My company just announced layoffs specifically because most of the companies we deal with are putting off equipment purchases. They are worried about what’s going to happen. Uncomfortable times are worrying. IT starts with CEOs and leeches down to the people on the floor and worried people spend less. So as good as the new models of iPhone may be people might just hold off for a year or two.

  2. Mike Weasner

    The drawback to facial recognition as the ONLY method of authenticating yourself to your phone/tablet is that the camera (or other facial sensing device has to be able to actually “see” your face. When I mount my iPhone on my telescope the phone won’t be able to see me due to the orientation of the device on the telescope and there wouldn’t be any light anyway (and I don’t want the flash/screen to light up!). And in the winter my face would be covered up anyway. Touch ID via Home button or screen needs to still be available.

  3. peacockshoehorn

    I’ve tried to help older people who had “smart TVs”, and the OS built into these things still has a long way to go before it can supplant the Apple TV/Chromecast/Roku add ons.

  4. rabber

    I will likely purchase a set top box this fall, after I see what Apple does with the next iteration of the Apple TV. I have been contemplating the purchase of a new TV. But I refuse to allow an Android TV into my home. While I understand that televisions are commodity devices and Apple did not really have a way to create a product that would make it in the market, it is really a shame. The privacy and security of Sony, Samsung and LG TVs scare me a great deal.

  5. John Martellaro

    rabber: that could be a competitive angle if Apple elects to go that route: “Disable the Wi-Fi on your Smart 4KTV and trust tvOS instead.” So far, I haven’t see that emphasis. Plus, TV makers keep looking for ways to make us keep the Wi-Fi enabled: key services, updates to features, TV remote functionality, etc.

  6. John Kheit

    Most smart tv UIs are terrible. My LG oled comes with web OS 3.0 and it’s pretty fantastic. I still use TiVo and Apple TV, however, Web is 3.0 is the first credible smart tv ui I’ve seen, and on the 2016 and newer lg oled tvs, the processor they use is finally fast enough that the experience is very fluid and good.

  7. wab95


    Whatever happens on the TV front, may the best solution win. I truly don’t care which does win, because, under the current set of offerings, sentience loses. Presently, most of what is offered on TV is mind-numbing tripe that one can only hope will one day (I won’t be here to see it, I’m sure) be supplanted with at least a greater prevalence of programming that, never mind intellectual and cultural enrichment, can entertain without ever lowering the bar on the least common and basest social denominator. Until that happens, entertainment consumers like myself will continue to navigate a desert of base offerings, each more content poor than its predecessor, often opting instead to settle on a good book with our favourite music genre as background (as I’m doing now). Until then, to all the TV content purveyors, let me paraphrase Mercuto, ‘A pox on all your houses’.

    Rather, let me turn to the more serious issue of AI. I’ve commented similarly to Tom Simonite regarding Apple’s strategy for AI, noting that Apple’s apparent performance disadvantage (eg. Siri falling behind Amazon and Google’s AIs that process individual user data on centralised servers that retain those data and the security compromise this represents) must be weighed in the greater context of their potential strategic advantage of playing the long game in everything they do, including AI development; in this case meaning Apple’s potential capacity to find a solution to both protect user privacy by not hoovering up your personal data on the one hand, and finding ways to improve AI personal responsiveness, on the other.

    I’m not professionally involved in AI development, let me be clear, so those who are might rightly dismiss what I’m about to say as rubbish. Conceded. That said, one way that Apple could do this, it seems to me, is to exploit central limit theorem using anonymised data. What does that even mean? Simple. In epidemiology – the study of population phenomena – we know that variation exists in nature. You are different from me, and I from the next person. This is why we reject anecdotal single observational points as representative data; individuals vary. However, as you gather data on greater numbers of people, so long as you do so randomly and without selection bias (eg only selecting certain types of people, like N American males 45 – 65y/o who make more than $125K/year – unless that is the group you are studying), you increase the representativeness of your sample to the greater population of interest. Further, you can anonymise that analysis by dropping all personal identifiers, like name, address, or even gender and age if you wish, and use broader categories of analysis in your data set, such as subjects 18 – 30 years, for example, for outcomes of interest (eg dining preferences).

    With consent, Apple could access observed personal behaviour with our devices, anonymise and aggregate those data into useful demographic categories of their client base, analyse those behaviours and feed those findings back to their AI, in the form of more precise and powerful SOC algorithms, to improve the AI responsiveness to our requests, and based on what we have shared on our accounts or devices about ourselves. This would provide the AI with an initial representative responsiveness as a foundation from which the AI could then refine with personalised input from the individual user – a feat that would require less processing power than trying to analyse an entire client base.

    Apple may already be doing some variant of that, for all I know. I’m confident that Apple are aware of the challenge their competition provide them, and are working to address it. My observation is that, if Apple continue to demonstrate a superior security option and the benefits of privacy protection, then the long game will favour the more gradual evolution of Apple’s AI over their competitors’ present advantage with an AI that proves less secure or even harmful to users, and whose further gains are more modest simply because the competition have already maximally exploited the computing power of servers and algorithms.

    As for bank phishing scams, nation state actors investment in this has weaponised this craft to an extent many will fall victim to. This is yet another area where a robust AI might be able to assist the individual user to avoid a trap into which they would otherwise fall.

  8. geoduck

    I could not agree more about the quality of TV. I seldom turn ours on because I have no interest in most of it. At this point I don’t even think about turning it on any more. My wife has to remind me about Dr. Who or something else we want to watch. More often, she turns it on and I go elsewhere, or put on headphones. We have a Netflix account. My wife watches several hours a week on it. I think I’ve watched maybe two hours on Netflix in the last year. (Actually it’s become a running joke. I find something I might want to watch “I wonder if Netflix has it?” The answer is always “No”.) I do stream a couple of things on my iPad when I’m working out. Can’t do much else when I’m on the treadmill. Frankly I’d just as soon get rid of the TVs completely. As far as I’m concerned they just take up space. A while back I thought about getting an AppleTV or Roku or something like that. The more I looked into it though, the less interest I had. They would bring nothing of value into the house. I look down the list of feeds you can get on them (assuming the Canadian list is similar. A rash assumption) and found little if anything that interested me.

    So John, Apple could come out with a 12K AppleTV and it would not make the slightest difference to me. It’s about the content. TV today reminds me of Gertrude Stein’s quote about Oakland: “There is no there there.”

  9. Lee Dronick

    There is good stuff on TV, but a lot of fluff. I have been enjoying on the National Geographic, drama shows on PBS, cooking on the Travel Channel, and some other shows. As with every media you have to ignore the clickbait and find the treasures.

  10. wab95


    Agreed. My TV watching is primarily news-related, which is not about entertainment, however perverse, so much as it is about information. To the extent that I watch Netflix, it’s been to stream one of the many Star Trek series. Almost invariably when I try to watch a movie to which I don’t already have access, I never get passed the first few minutes before I turn it off. Time, like a mind, is a terrible thing to waste.


    Point taken. Perhaps I insufficiently balanced my aversion for the thoughtless, content-poor, pointless drivel that passes for entertainment, and for which we pay a hefty fee (at any tier for cable services), with the fact that I do both watch some (albeit very little) content. I subscribe to Curiosity Stream, for example, which while one doesn’t make a sole diet of their content, does have the merit of being both entertaining and enriching.

    And, I do have an Apple TV, and prefer this to other packages that I’ve sampled, so I do wish Apple well in this endeavour.

    Finally, I recognise that I am not a typical consumer. My kids are. And much of the current TV content is produced for consumers like them. Writers and producers wrote consumers like me off a long time ago, in studio far far away…

  11. John Martellaro

    My wife and I are (have been) very much enjoying the BBC or Canadian mystery shows—all on Netflix. The quality is high.: Foyle’s War, Shetland, Murdoch Mysteries, Dr. Blake Mysteries, and the delicious Death in Paradise. Special mention to Shetland for its local charm, writing and photography.

  12. Lee Dronick

    My wife and I are (have been) very much enjoying the BBC or Canadian mystery shows

    A Place to Call Home the series set in post WWII Australia.

    I am also enjoying Will the new series about William Shakespeare.

    Apple TV has TED talks

  13. cubefan

    I have a 4k Sony Smart TV powered by Android and a Sony Soundbar, and an Apple TV4.

    ONLY the Apple TV4 correctly wakes up the TV AND the Soundbar when its switched on, the Apple TV wakes up the other devices over HDMI. It just works.

    About 50% of the time, switching on the TV fails to power up the Soundbar over HDMI so the Soundbar control has to be accessible. So it just doesn’t work, as its supposed to.

    I have a Sony upscaling BluRay player and that doesn’t either…

    If only everyone could actually implement standards as effectively as Apple.

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