Posts: 7

Pilotless planes and the myth of passing on savings to consumers

The Verge has a short article up on pilotless planes, a study about consumer acceptance of pilotless planes, and the economic effects: Pilotless planes could save airlines billions, but passengers don’t want to fly in them yet

I thought about this a bit and I realised that I'd actually be willing and curious to be a passenger on a pilotless plane.

This passage, though:

UBS believes passengers could then see these savings passed down to them in the form of reduced fares, assuming there is no additional cost for flying pilotless and airlines don’t retain the benefits.

Really? Passing on savings to consumers. Really?

Let's ignore the development costs for this type of change that need to be recuperated; when was the last time you've seen publicly traded companies pass down savings to consumers?

There's nothing wrong with making a profit and once this technology is mature enough to confidently and securely transport people, by all means, make a profit. I just think that we all shouldn't lie to ourselves and think that there will be a financial benefit for anyone but these companies.

Which, ultimately, shows us that the core message of this article can be found in the first part of the title:
"Pilotless planes could save airlines billions"

Profile of accessory maker Anker on The Verge

The Verge published a profile of accessory maker Anker yesterday, written by Nick Statt.

I've been using their accessories—battery packs, Lightning cables, chargers—for a few years now and from the beginning I was very impressed by the quality Anker is able to deliver at less than half the price of Apple and established accessory manufacturers.

This article is a really interesting read about the origins and philosophy of the company.

How Anker is beating Apple and Samsung at their own game — The Verge

When a juicer isn't a juicer — a story of Silicon Valley hubris

The Verge has a really funny article up, about Juicero, the USD 700 USD 400 Wi-Fi-connected "juicer". The story behind and around this thing is utterly ridiculous and funny, especially once you realise that investors were convinced this is a good idea. Go ahead, read the article and watch the video; it's worth it for the laughs:

Turns out Juicero’s ludicrous Wi-Fi juicer is even more unnecessary than it sounds — by Jacob Kastrenakes @ The Verge

Calling this device a juicer stretches the term almost past its breaking point:

  • It merely squeezes pre-made juice packs into a glass.
  • It doesn't produce juice from fresh fruit or vegetables.
  • It's impractical because the small juice packs have to be replaced constantly and you have to put a glass beneath it by yourself.
  • It produces a huge amount of non-degradable waste, unlike, you know, an actual juicer.
  • It's not a stretch to assume a real juicer will give you fresher juice and store-bought organic juice is probably just as good.
  • It forces you to buy juice packs from the company behind the Juicero.
  • It's an Internet of Things device for no apparent reason other than to save you from having to push a button when you arrive in the kitchen (hoping that you remembered to put a glass beneath it beforehand).
  • It's probably easily compromised because I can't see a Silicon Valley startup caring about properly securing their IoT devices.
  • It, eventually, creates more problems than it solves and fails at being what it claims: a juicer.

It boggles my mind that this thing was a) thought of as a good idea, b) developed beyond the basic conceptual stage, c) funded (!), and d) made into an actual product you can buy.

Just when I thought I was out, they drag me back in: The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II

I like Chucks. I used to love them but over the past two years I got fed-up with the quality and pricing of these shoes.

To my knowledge I haven't changed anything about the way I wear them, I didn't gain weight, and I still rarely wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row; but whereas before I knew that a pair of Chucks would last me about 1.5 years, I've had pairs (low top and high top) that only held up a mere six months before they fell apart.
Add to that the fact that a pair of high top Chucks sells for a ridiculous € 75.– in German retail stores (I wrote about this in detail two years ago) while genuine high tops can be had for ~ € 16.– in Beijing (as I was able to see first-hand during a recent trip to China).

These experiences have changed my attitude towards the brand and the product for the worse and caused me to actively look for more durable, comfortable, stylish, and less overpriced alternatives (… to add to my evoked set). There are a couple of sneaker companies out there that make really nice, high-quality sneakers and shoes (Pointer, Boxfresh, Nike, etc.) and over the past two years, I've bought shoes from all of them.

About a week ago Converse/Nike introduced the first major update to this product line in nearly a century, resulting in the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II. I'm not a sneaker fan, so the initial news/hype about the new version completely passed me by and I only got wind of it when I walked past a sneaker shop in Bonn.

A quick trip to the Converse website revealed the key features: a removable, well-cushioned Lunarlon sockliner (pretty comfortable Nike technology, if you ask me), a padded non-slip tongue that is held in place by two elastic bands, perforated micro suede lining, and Tencel® canvas on the outside, which, from experience, is more durable than cotton and regulates moisture more effectively.

I'm having trouble remembering if there was every time when where there wasn't at least one pair of Chucks in my shoe rack. I always liked that you can combine them with pretty much anything, that they don't look to extravagant and they're timeless shoes at this point. For this reason I decided to give the new version a chance.

My initial impressions after wearing them in a shop in Trier are that the Lunarlon sockliner has the potential to bea lot more comfortable than the footbed of the old version, the canvas feels nice, and the overall workmanship seems to have seen significant improvements, too.
While I'm not sold on the perforated suede and the padded tongue and ankles, the shoes felt so good on my feet that I found myself standing outside the shop 15 minutes later with a box containing these vivid blue high top Chucks in my hands:

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II

Time and wear will tell whether the overall quality and durability have been improved enough during the redesign, so I'll have an easier time convincing myself that paying € 80.– for a pair of Chucks isn't completely bonkers. Maybe I will even start keeping more than one pair in my shoe rack once again.

Safari in iOS 9 will allow ad-blocking extensions

I just read about this on Apple is going to allow content-blocking extensions in mobile Safari. Android has had this for a while and I was wondering how long it would take Apple to add/allow this kind of technology in iOS. There are many interesting connections to be made here:

One is Apple making clear that iOS can be a viable work platform and Apple is allowing users to remove unwanted distractions. This isn't something only consumers will be interested in but also corporations that deploy iOS devices, when factoring in the potential bandwidth savings when using adblockers on mobile devices. I think it makes a lot of sense in light of Apple's recently established cooperation with IBM and it might convince even more companies to deploy iOS devices (especially because these content-blocking extensions don't have to be limited to ads).

I would also say that Apple sees the potential to improve users' browsing experience and privacy on iOS devices and it says something about Apple's regard, or lack thereof, for the state of advertisments on websites today.

With that in mind, Apple allowing ads in iOS 9's new News app sends a mixed message to content publishers. I'm sure more than one media and ad agency executive will interpret this as, "If you want your readers to see ads and make money off of them, you should really take a look at our News app." or depending on your mindset even, "That's a nice ad business you have there. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it."

From my perspective as a consumer, I don't have much against what Apple is doing here, especially given Apple's history of trying—with an emphasis on trying—to improve ads on mobile devices with their iAds product. The few times I saw iAds in apps and on sites, I found them a lot less annoying than everything else that is out there.
Of course, this will only hold true, if Apple not only mandates design standards for content in the upcoming News app but also for the way ads are presented to a reader.

Steve Jobs introduces the 'Think Different' campaign to Apple employees

A few months ago I commented on Charlie Rose's interview of Tim Cook and specifically what was said about Apple as a company.

Every now and then you will hear Tim Cook or some other c-level employee say that Steve Jobs and what he stood for is part of Apple's DNA. Watching the video above while keeping in mind the company that Apple has become, it's not hard to imagine that this is true.

Found on: the Mac Observer