Google Pixel 6 and Google deciding to settle on a messaging platform.

Out of nowhere Google has shown off the Pixel 6 to journalists however they could only show mockups in the videos being uploaded to YouTube. The focus was more a ‘top level’ macro overview rather than specifics (link) however pretty much all the tick boxes were filled when it came to confirming the rumours that have been making their round in the technology enthusiast space since the launch of the Samsung S21 and Google working with Samsung. The big focus appears to be the integration between the software and hardware which makes for an interesting situation when one considers that Apple has their own SoC, Samsung with their own SoC, Google with now their own SoC and Microsoft very much working with Qualcomm (maybe Microsoft will move beyond the Duo when it comes to Android phones).

I say tha tit is interesting because for many years the analysts on wall street convinced themselves that the future was all horizontal business models, that vertical business models like what Apple does is ‘stodgy’ and ‘old fashioned’ but it appears that once again the ‘experts on wall street’ demonstrate that they’re largely clueless about running a business. While Apple is making big investments into their services as people are keeping their phones for longer (thus slowing down growth) we’re seeing Google doing the same by not only developing their hardware division but offering more paid for services – I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing more paid for services with the eventual goal to become less dependent on their advertisement business as it has become a lightning rod in recent years as concerns about consumer privacy come to the forefront.

One thing is interesting is how things are calming down in the area of messaging platforms, that after years of floating between different solutions it appears that Google has finally standardised on a platform (RCS) along with providing a framework so that third parties can build their messaging applications on while utilising the Google Jibe RCS network. Things are gradually evolving where recently end to end encrypt was enabled using the signal protocol for individual conversations but there are rumours that Google is working on enabling it for group conversations. Truth be known I only use SMS when chatting with friends and family, I got rid of my WhatsApp a few months ago so I could rid myself of any connection with Facebook.

One application I do like is Google Chat – it works a whole long nice than hangouts, it’ll be interesting to see whether long term we’ll see Meet replace duo or if they do keep it whether they call it something different- something that is a lot more descriptive given that Duo doesn’t exactly tell the end user much regarding it is supposed to do. It appears that across the board all the big players such as Google, Apple and Microsoft are rationalising their product portfolio and with the current political climate in the US regarding big tech giants I wouldn’t be surprised if we see further moves by Google to offer paid for versions – their recent move has been to provide a cheaper entry level version of YouTube Premium, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more paid for ad free versions – a paid for product has a whole lot less political sensitivity associated with it when compared to an ad support service which bring scrutiny to the ad platform regarding end user privacy.

Apple releases updates, right to repair moving forward and products designed for obsolescence.

That was rather unexpected, a week after the iOS 14.7 and maOS 11.5 were released, Apple released another update within the last 24 hours in the form of iOS 14.7.1 and macOS 11.5.1 with the update of iOS 14.7.1 weighing it at 128MB where as macOS 11.5.1 weighed in at 2.2G. Given the size of the macOS update I have to wonder whether the correction in the IOMobileFrameBuffer required recompiling of all the frameworks that are based off that. I also wonder whether this was a fix for the much reported pegasus spyware but we’ll need to ‘wait and see’ given that there is currently a whole lot of political fall out that is occurring such as Emmanuel Macron an enquiry into NSO spyware concerns (link).

Personally I find the whole industry a bit unsavoury when one considers ‘In July 2001, Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov was jailed for several weeks…’ (link) because he is researching the technology behind technology (and help create software that would enable customers who had purchased Adobe ebooks to convert them into PDF so then it is possible to read them on devices without an special reader) but nothing is said about shady businesses that find vulnerabilities, create malware kits and then sell them to the highest bidder? Aaron Swartz bulk downloaded articles off JSTOR and had the legal system thrown at him which resulted in him taking his own life – yet nothing is said or done about these shady purveyors of malware and spying kits?

Regarding the matter of ‘right to repair’ which I raised towards the end of my last post, there was an interesting video from Louis Rossman (link) being interviewed by Krystal & Saagar (formally from ‘The Hill’):

It is important to keep in mind, it isn’t just the right to be able to get something repaired and for the repairer to be able to order the part, it also is about ensuring that there is the ability to repair without having to deal with proprietary firmware and software which make repairs impossible (link). Part of this trend has been pushed by the industry so that you’re dependent on their network of repair agents in much the same way that razor vendors will sell you a pack with a couple of ‘free’ blades but they make up the money on replacement blades or when printers sell a printer at a low margin and make up for it on the ink sales.

With all that being said, it is important not to let the consumer off the hook for a lot of what exists in the technology space at the moment. I’d argue that a fair amount of the push has been from consumers wanting thinner, lighter and valuing convenience over longevity and efficiency. Check out any discussion on forums of people whining about how their iPhone was ‘slightly heavier’ when Apple responded to demand for a larger battery, or the complaints by reviews of a laptop that is ever so slightly heavier but has the the added bonus of upgradeable memory and other components.

As I raised earlier regarding wireless keyboard and mouse on a desktop computer – to whose benefit? imagine the batteries that one goes through and made worse that some don’t even include replaceable batteries (see Apple’s own wireless keyboards) – you’re using your keyboard at your desk all the time so what is the purpose of having it wireless? It appears to be an example of a trend within technology which I’ll call “wires are old fashioned, wireless is sleek and modern” – the fetishisation and commodification of certain technologies as representing something ‘more modern’ even though if someone stood back they would realise that in the long term it is worse for the consumer and the environment.

The question is how does one educate consumers about what they’re forfeiting – to move people away from this idea of treating what they own as disposable to one where they value what they’ve bought and demand that devices are repairable and long lasting – that a pair of earphones that only last 2 years but cost NZ$249 is bordering on the ridiculous if the battery isn’t user replaceable.

One of the things I would love to see is a requirement that hardware companies have to open source the driver source so that it can be merged back into the Android master tree so then there isn’t the situation of Android phones being sold and they stop receiving security and bug fixes 6-12 months after being launched. At the end of the day when you have a smart phone you are running a minicomputer that is connected to the internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so it makes sense that you need to receive regular updates as security holes are found or as general bugs are found. Many of these devices have good enough hardware specifications to last 2-3 years minimum so why isn’t there an effort to ensure that those devices keep receiving updates even after they’re launched and the OEM has lost interest. Google could provide the compile farms and I’m sure there will be enough enthusiasts willing to keep things working.

Mandate that batteries are user replaceable – we used to have user replaceable batteries. Will it add to the bulk? sure but I’d sooner have the additional bulk with the freedom of being able to replace my battery rather than having to go through the inconvenience of having to take my phone to a store or find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no ability to get a replacement. This also goes for parts because as Louis Rossman noted in his interview, the vendor which supplies Apple has the part but Apple forbids that company from selling it to him so he can complete a repair – which is particularly important when the device is out of warranty or something that Apple has decided is beyond their scope (aka, telling the customer ‘just buy a new one’ but the customer needs the content of what is on the device since it may have not all backed up to the cloud).