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Fitbit’s app hit the top of the App Store on Christmas Day, and stayed there on Boxing Day too. But this isn’t the first time that’s happened – the same thing happened last year too, and the ranking of the Fitbit app always spikes at Christmas. Given that sales have been up year on year consistently, though less dramatically than in the past, this is very much what you’d expect.
Cyanogen finds another way to flail by shutting down all services Dec 31st – The Verge (Dec 24, 2016)
This story calls this an ignominious end for Cyanogen, which had promised to be one of the more interesting competitors to the official version of Android, and that seems about right. This was a company and product with all kinds of interesting potential, but it was largely squandered, in part due to an excess of hubris. A good summary of all the implications has been posted at Lifehacker.
Jawbone was one of the pioneers in the wearables space, but seems to be in free-fall at this point – it’s worth noting that the reason Fitbit is ending its opposition to Jawbone’s device sales is that Jawbone seems to be in so much trouble. It’s a cautionary tale that even the early big names in a new space don’t always do well over the long term – Pebble is another obvious example in the same space.
Chinese electronics firm LeEco won’t be able to close its Vizio purchase this year – Recode (Dec 24, 2016)
LeEco is a fascinating company – it’s certainly the most aggressive major Chinese tech vendor in its expansion in the US, but a major component of that expansion and building credibility in the US is the Vizio TV brand it is acquiring. It looks like that deal won’t close until early in the New Year, which will continue to hamper LeEco. But it’s far from the company’s biggest challenge – its financials continue to be a major question mark too.
Apple Pulls All Withings Accessories From Apple Online Store Following Nokia Lawsuit – Mac Rumors (Dec 23, 2016)
Apple clearly doesn’t appreciate Nokia’s recent lawsuit over patents, and is choosing to let Nokia know by dropping its Withings products from its stores. This will have a minimal impact on Apple’s retail operation, but Apple retail is a great premium channel for Withings, so this is a nice way to put some minor pressure on while the lawsuit is underway.
Nintendo plans to release 2 or 3 mobile games a year after Super Mario Run’s success | Macworld (Dec 23, 2016)
Nintendo certainly seems to have taken the success of Pokemon Go and more recently Super Mario Run as signs that it should invest further in mobile gaming, something observers have been clamoring for for years. But despite the massive numbers, we oughtn’t to overlook the poor reviews and backlash against Super Mario Run following its release. There are still risks aplenty here.
Netflix never slowed down in 2016 – Engadget (Dec 23, 2016)
This is a decent summary of Netflix in 2016 – a rapid international expansion coupled with a paring back of purchased content and a ramping up of original content, which is a pretty good summary of Netflix’s strategy at the moment too. The challenge continues to be finding growth domestically, where growth has slowed quite a bit, and driving profits overseas, where growth is strong but loss-making.
Uber explains why app appears to continue tracking your location; other apps affected too | 9to5Mac (Dec 23, 2016)
There was something of a fuss when Uber was found to have changed its location settings in its iOS app to always share the user’s location. It now appears the explanation is benign – it’s the app’s Maps extension that’s to blame. But the fact that the issue blew up at all is an indication of skepticism about Uber’s privacy protections, especially given repeated stories about employees accessing user data in illegitimate ways.
A survey cited in the article suggests Amazon has eclipsed Walmart over the last three years when it comes to holiday shopping, and the gap is widening significantly. This further feeds the narrative that Amazon is outpacing all its major rivals in terms of not just e-commerce spend growth but retail growth overall.
Facebook said all the way back in November that it intended to form a measurement council to improve external oversight of its metrics and reporting. This is one of the first concrete signs that it’s moving towards better outside auditing, though it’s not an announced deal yet.
Ever since the US presidential election, Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been grappling with what kind of company Facebook is, and its role in the modern world. Zuckerberg’s initial reaction to claims Facebook affected the election was dismissive, but his views seem to be evolving, which is a good thing. Facebook is enormously influential, and needs to recognize that.
Snap (formerly Snapchat) continues to do things differently from almost every other social network out there (though Facebook is imitating it lately). This article details Snap’s approach of treating celebrities like any other user, which is in keeping with its focus on authenticity, but can also be frustrating for big names.
Critics of all stripes have found fault with Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s philanthropic efforts, but there’s no doubting the commitment to effecting real change here. On balance, I’m inclined to think this is a good thing, though it’s worth continuing to evaluate the methods and structure of the Initiative.
Jaunt VR App Launches on PlayStation VR | Variety (Dec 23, 2016)
Content remains a critical component of making VR both mainstream and successful, and Jaunt is one of the interesting companies making non-gaming VR content happen. Getting its content onto all the major platforms is a big step.
It looks like LG has pre-announced lots of their CES smartphone announcements, focused on mid-tier phones. Given how everyone but Apple and Samsung (and more recently the Google Pixel) is struggling in the premium market, it makes sense for LG to focus here, though competition from China is intensifying in this segment. Tough times for Android phone makers.
Apple Adds Public Transport Maps for Great Britain (Dec 23, 2016)
It appears Apple now has public transit maps for the whole of Great Britain (but not the whole of the UK – Northern Ireland is missing). I’ve been seeing lots of cities and countries added recently – the public transit data seems to be getting more and more complete (my nearest big city, Salt Lake City, was added last week).
Apple’s iCloud website has been the solution for users of its products who don’t own a Mac, but it’s often been a poor second class citizen to the Mac experience (arguably deliberately). This is an interesting change in a key area, and it’s possible that it portends more robust iCloud.com offerings for other products and services.
It’s become increasingly clear in recent months that Android Wear is struggling mightily. Without a shot in the arm from Google, it seems likely to wither on the vine. I still think a Pixel-like direct entry from Google is the best strategy here, but this might be something of a stopgap.
Two top Faraday Future executives just resigned – The Verge (Dec 23, 2016)
It’s hard to avoid the sense at this point that this company is in enormous trouble, along with its investor LeEco, both of which seem to have overspent in an aggressive pursuit of new product and geographic markets.
Facebook kills off exact location sharing in Nearby Friends, adds “Wave” | TechCrunch (Dec 22, 2016)
In a world in which it seems threats to privacy get steadily stronger over time, this is an unusual retrenchment. Facebook will now share less detailed information in its Nearby Friends feature, though arguably to make the feature more appealing rather than out of any sense of altruism. It’s an interesting example of dialing back user data sharing to win user trust.