Soft Sales

Microsoft’s flagship NYC store opens at the end of October:

Microsoft is opening its first flagship store in New York City later next month. Located just a few blocks away from Apple’s iconic cube on Fifth Avenue, Microsoft’s new retail location will replace an old Fendi store at 677 Fifth Avenue and serve as the company’s first full retail store in Manhattan. “These flagship stores have been in the making for six years,” explains David Porter, Microsoft’s head of retail and online stores. “We are eager to open our doors to those in Manhattan. The five-floor, 22,269 square foot location will be a premier venue to learn about, experience and shop for the products and services from Microsoft and our partners.”

Guys, it’s time to end the charade.

Focus on what you do best—software.

Steve Albini

Over at Pitchfork, Jazz Monroe on an email Steve Albini wrote that was turned into a billboard:

Diagonal label boss Oscar Powell also releases music as Powell via XL. His latest single, “Insomniac”, (coming soon on XL), features a vocal sample from Steve Albini that dates to his time fronting Big Black. Ahead of its release, Powell emailed Albini to get sample clearance and explain how much Big Black’s music meant to him. However, as the Quietus reports, Albini gave more than his approval—he also included a long rant on how much he hates dance music.

If you don’t know who Steve Albini is, here’s a bit:

As of 2008, Albini is most active as a record producer; however, he dislikes the term and prefers to receive no credit on album sleeves or notes. When credited, he prefers the term “recording engineer.”

Albini estimated that he has engineered the recording of 1,500 albums, mostly by obscure musicians, in 2004. More prominent artists that Albini has worked with include: Foxy Shazam, Nirvana, Pixies, The Breeders, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, The Jesus Lizard, Don Caballero, PJ Harvey, The Wedding Present, Joanna Newsom, Superchunk, Low, Dirty Three, Jawbreaker, Neurosis, Cloud Nothings, Bush, Chevelle, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Helmet, Fred Schneider, The Stooges, Owls, Manic Street Preachers, Jarvis Cocker, The Cribs, The Fleshtones, Nina Nastasia, The Frames, The Membranes, Cheap Trick, Motorpsycho, Slint, mclusky, Labradford, Veruca Salt, Zao, and The Auteurs.

The dude is no joke.

Fake Traffic

Fake traffic has become a commodity. There’s malware for generating it and brokers who sell it. Some companies pay for it intentionally, some accidentally, and some prefer not to ask where their traffic comes from. It’s given rise to an industry of countermeasures, which inspire counter-countermeasures. “It’s like a game of whack-a-mole,” says Fernando Arriola, vice president for media and integration at ConAgra Foods. Consumers, meanwhile, to the extent they pay attention to targeted ads at all, hate them: The top paid iPhone app on Apple’s App Store is an ad blocker.

Bloomberg: The Fake Traffic Schemes That Are Rotting the Internet

Today’s Schadenfreude is Blackberry-Flavored

Guess what: Blackberry still makes phones and apparently their CEO doesn’t know how to use them:

Last week, BlackBerry confirmed plans to launch the Priv: an Android-powered slider smartphone that it says combines the best features of Google’s mobile OS with “BlackBerry security and productivity.” It’s a sensible selling point, but as this hands-on with the Priv featuring BlackBerry CEO John Chen shows, the Android operating system isn’t familiar territory for the company. Chen repeatedly says that the Priv “runs Google,” and falters during the demonstration, opening up Chrome (which is slow to respond) before closing the app when realizing the phone isn’t logged in to a Google account.

Hey Chen, at least act like you give a shit.

Compete Asymmetrically

Horace Dediu on the potential to disrupt the automotive industry:

Executives at car companies have suddenly had to answer questions about potential entrants into their business. This is a big change. I don’t recall a time when this was necessary for over 30 years. For decades the questions have been about labor relations, health care costs, regulation, recalls and competition from other car makers. To ask questions about facing challengers posing existential questions must seem terribly impertinent.

For this reason, Bob Lutz, in his dismissal of Apple’s entry is not alone. The industry, with a century of history and has seen little disruption in the classic sense. I wrote a long piece on the fundamentals of the industry titled “The Entrant’s Guide to the Automobile Industry” which explained why this industry has been so resistant to disruptive change. At best a massive effort over multiple decades usually leads in a small shift in market share.

However, one should read that post as a thinly veiled threat. Just because disruption seems hard does not mean it isn’t possible. Indeed, the better you understand the industry the more easily you can observe its vulnerability and the more rigid the industry seems the more vulnerable it may be to dramatic change.

The formula for successful entry is the same for all industries: compete asymmetrically. This means introduce products which change the basis of competition and deter competitive responses by making your goals dissimilar from those of the incumbents. This is classic “ju-jitsu” of disruptive competition.

Here’s how it would work.

Apple has succeeded in disrupting:

  • the music industry
  • the (smart)phone industry
  • the PC (and post-PC) industry

And while the Apple Watch is still very young they’re beginning to chip away at the watch industry.

Why would anyone think it’s not possible they eat up the automotive industry too?

Apple’s success in any new industry is far from guaranteed but to count them out seems extremely short-sighted.

Kickstarter is now a Benefit Corporation

News today from Kickstarter:

Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that are obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on society, not only shareholders. Radically, positive impact on society becomes part of a Benefit Corporation’s legally defined goals. When a company becomes a Benefit Corporation, it can choose to make further commitments. In our new charter (shown below) we spell out our mission, our values, and the commitments we have made to pursue them.

Pretty cool.

“you can scramble an egg, but can never unscramble it”

Gizmodo: Physicists Discover “Hidden Chaos” Lurking Everywhere:

It appears that the standard tools used to identify chaotic signatures might be missing lots of hidden chaos — especially in systems that seem like they’re not chaotic at all.

Chaos theory is famously associated with so-called “strange attractors,” marked by a telltale butterfly-wing shape (see above). But according to a new paper by two University of Maryland mathematicians, sometimes chaos looks more like “a strange repeller,” or something else entirely.

I’ve been saying this forever.

Solving the Same Problems

Vlad Savov on Apple, Google, and Microsoft all solving the same problems:

Consider all the overlaps that have developed in recent times between the strategies of America’s three foremost tech corporations. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are getting into the connected car business that Microsoft has been in for years, while the latter’s Cortana personal assistant echoes the voice-activated Google Now and Siri software of its competitors. Where Apple has Continuity to keep people working across various devices, Microsoft has Continuum, and Google has the universality of the Chrome browser and its range of web apps. Besides the connected car and the connected you, all three are also connecting the TV — through AirPlay, Chromecast, and the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter — and developing app and gaming platforms such as the Xbox One, Android consoles, and the new Apple TV.

Savov is right, but what’s the alternative? Not built a product or service your competitor has and risk ceding ground to them now or in the future?

It seems better for the three top dogs to build redundant solutions to the same problems than not build them.

Himself Is a Total Dick

Dave Pell on Trump:

Even if you find him contemptible, Trump is doing what no presidential candidate has ever dared to do. He’s being himself. While it’s undeniable that Himself is a total dick, at least he’s presenting the same himself in presidential debates as he does in business and entertainment.

I hate Trump’s politics. And I hate most things he says. But I love that he’s saying it, and even how he’s saying it. He is doing to our absurd political races and the equally absurd way we cover them exactly what needs to be done.

He is making a complete mockery of the complete mockery.

Trump acts like a bratty teenager: He makes fun of peoples’ looks and tweets whatever is in his head, sans filter. This is why I feel like Trump is going to get bored running for president. A mind as petty and immature as his can hold interest in one thing for so long before he moves on to his next thing.

Peace Out, Windows

There was a slim chance that Windows Phone might have been able to overcome all this and establish itself in 2011, when Nokia’s partnership was announced. There was no chance at all by the time Microsoft bought Nokia in 2013. and so the write-down of that acquisition now comes as a matter of regret but not surprise. Windows Phone has failed to achieve enough scale to be attractive to developers: it is a third choice, or perhaps even fourth, after the greater appeal of just doing another iOS or Android project. There are fewer apps, and those that are there are later and have fewer features than those on iOS or Android. Consumers notice. Some people love their Windows Phones, but not nearly enough.

—Benedict Evans, Microsoft, Capitulation and The End of Windows Everywhere