Notes week 22 - 2017

Internet 

Internet Report 2017

Mary Meeker from KPCB released her yearly internet report and as always it's a treat to read - all 355 slides. One interesting tidbit was designer : developer ratios (slide 188) which is 1 designer per ~6-7 developers. It’s good this is improving. It means that design is getting more important and developers get more productive. Both are good things.

 

Google Chrome Will Automatically Block Annoying Ads

Google Contributor

Google is going to bundle an ad filter by default with Chrome. The ad filter removes ads which are not in line with the guidelines set out by the "Coalition for Better Ads". As a long time users of ad filters, I am happy to see more attention is going to improve the ad experience on the internet. Though I wonder if it will be enough. Ad blocking is now installed on 18% of desktop computers and on 1% of mobile devices in the US. The problem with ads is that they've gone downhill in quality and relevancy. Most of it has to do with the lowering of ad costs and the increase inventory by publishers to compensate.

Next, Google is also launching Google Contributor where users can pay a small fee to see the ad-free version. That's an interesting twist. It only supports 12 sites for now and no major site is part of the line up yet. It's also unclear what the pricing is. Google says sites charge a flat fee per page view but without signing up, you can't actually see what the flat fee is. Also you've to enable them manually. There's still some work to do here.

 

Hardware 

Apple Is Manufacturing a Siri Speaker to Outdo Google and Amazon 

Apple is presumably introducing a wireless speaker with Siri integration. It is a logical extension to Apple's product portfolio. Apple’s challenge is that Siri today is not that useful and HomeKit has not taken off. Adoption of HomeKit by vendors has been slow due to Apple’s high bar for integration. My home has many home automation devices. None of them are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit.

Though like the EarPods this product will add to the bottom line and keep investors at bay (for now). I would be surprised if Apple can create serious momentum over Echo or Home in the short term. Both Amazon and Google have great services (shopping and search) which elevate these products immediately to the next level. Besides music Apple does not have any great services.

Exclusive: this is the Essential Phone 

Essential Home is an Amazon Echo competitor that puts privacy first

Andy Rubin's company Essential announced two products today; Phone and Home. The Essential Phone is made of titanium / ceramic and has a screen which "incorporates" the front camera. The Essential Home looks a more capable Echo Show and it can act more independently from the cloud than Amazon's echo line of products. 

There's a lot of chatter about the Essential Phone where assumptions are made that the market is owned by Apple and Samsung. This is certainly true today in the premium segment of the smartphone market. But as smartphone hardware and software (read Android) is becoming a commodity, there's enough room in the market for competitors in the premium space. The hardest part is to capture people's attention especially without a clear distinguishing factor. I wonder if the Essential Phone has what it takes to do that.

The Essential Home is a much more interesting product. I am super bullish on the Echo Show. My experience with the Echo Dot proves that a screen can be super beneficial in the interaction with the device. I think these devices are the first inklings of ambient computing and the start of unbundling the smartphone. 

Patents

SCOTUS has invalidated patent rights after first sale. This is an important steps towards freedom for owners to handle your own equipment as you see fit. The context was refurbishment of ink cartridges for printers but the ruling applies to any equipment sold with refillable cartridges like a lot of medical equipment. Clearly patents were abused in this case to limit the freedom of owners of equipment and artificially inflate pricing on the market for consumables. 

U.S. Supreme Court Curbs Patent-Holder Power to Block Resale

Hybrid / Web Apps

Chrome dropped support for PNaCl and embraced WebAssembly. This means there's consensus among the major browser that WebAssembly is going to be the implementation for portable compiled apps on the web. Chrome and Firefox support it already and Edge + Safari offer it in their preview versions. This makes cross-browser cross-platform high performance web apps a reality like 3D games or video editors.

Goodbye PNaCl, Hello WebAssembly! 

Blockchain

Crypto Tokens: A Breakthrough in Open Network Design 

Chris Dixon talks about his excitement for crypto tokens. He compares it to open source and open information. It's fair but it's going further than that. It's marrying peer 2 peer and permanentness on the network.

$35 Million in 30 Seconds: Token Sale for Internet Browser Brave Sells Out

Brave BATs ICO sale raised $35M in 30s. It sounds like we're heading into a bubble. Brave previously raised $7M in 2 rounds. It feels that $30M is a bridge too far for where the company is today. Apparently many people disagree, let's see what happens next.