By now, everyone knows about the announcements that came out of the Apple event this week. Two new iPhone sizes, another half-hearted wearable device and another mobile payment platform. While there may not have been anything to get excited about, there was something truly interesting that happened during the event - an admission from Apple that the iGeneration is over.
In 1998, Steve Jobs revealed the iMac, his first product since returning to the company. Despite poor sales in the beginning, the iMac had a profound impact on Apple: it set forth the naming of products for nearly 2 decades. Since the iMac, there has been the iPod, iPhone, iPad and software products such as iBook, iTunes, iLife and iWork. The odd naming convention spurred hundreds of companies and products from outside of Apple donning the lowercase i at the top of their brand. Even the Consumer Electronics Show has had a section of its show floor named the iLounge, despite Apple never participating in the event.
However, the Steve Jobs Apple died with him in 2011. The Tim Cook Apple began its life then, though no Tim Cook products had really been announced. Until now, only Steve Jobs updates had been announced, continuing to behave like the Apple of old. Because of this, we saw more iPod, iPhone and iPad announcements. But the winds are changing, and Tim Cook finally showed off HIS first 2 products, both with a new naming convention.
The product that everyone knew was coming and no one knew the name of, was known pre-announcement as the iWatch, though there were rumors of it being named iTime. Either way, the product seemed to fit nicely into the Steve Jobs Apple - beginning with the i. However, that was not the case. As you know, the product was announced as the Apple Watch, with the word "Apple" being replaced by the black corporate logo, similar to what we have seen on the Apple TV.
This was not the only entirely new (to Apple) product announced - we also saw Apple Pay, a service identical to that of Google and Microsoft's respective wallet services. The difference, however, is in the naming. The service name, Apple Pay, is named exactly the same as Apple Watch, with the Apple logo as part of the name. This gives the company 3 major products in this new naming scheme: Apple TV, Apple Watch and Apple Pay.
Why is this important? Apple is not one to make big changes, despite the public opinion to the contrary. They are a company set in their ways, and any major change to the culture is a shock. This new branding is a major change in culture, and therefore a shock. It is, almost certainly inspired by Tim Cook, who has been looking to make his lasting mark on the company in a good way, which he has had trouble doing to date.
A change in the company culture, especially one that supports Tim Cook in the captain's chair, is one that could finally make Apple a big player again. Since 2011, we have seen Apple's place in the industry slip - the iPod brand is all but dead, Android phones have nearly shut the iPhone out and low-cost Android and Windows tablets have cut into sales of the iPad. Many, including myself, have believed that this was because Tim Cook had not been accepted as the head of the corporate family. Perhaps a collection of products, launched by Cook and marketed under a new branding, could be exactly what Cook needs to truly lead the company.
The landscape of television and movies has been changing over the past few years in a big way. Less people are watching television live, with big new shows like
The Blacklist being the most time-diverted shows on television. In fact, as I write this, I am streaming a television show on Netflix, which is a normal scenario for me. With services like Netflix and Hulu giving people access to shows without a cable subscription, many people have been cutting the cord with their cable companies; saving money with only Internet and subscriptions to these services.
Disney's ESPN brand is in an interesting place in the world of cord-cutters. People badly want to be able to get rid of their cable, but Disney has not made their content, especially their live content, available to the non-cable public. That is why people got excited when ESPN President John Skipper talked with Re/code and discussed streaming capabilities. This is the move that many people have been waiting for.
Unfortunately, Skipper shut down the excitement quickly, saying,
I do want to be clear, we are not looking to disrupt our linear channels and the content that's owned in that. We're going to go acquire new content and new kinds of things to go direct to consumers.
Let me translate: we want a streaming service, but we won't give people the content we already produce. That is unfortunate, but not entirely surprising. While the cord-cutters would like to be able to watch ESPN content without cable, there are some major legal hurdles that currently prevent Disney from making this content available over the Internet.
Let's take the NFL, for example. Any NFL game that ESPN/ABC broadcasts, either in part or entirety, is done under contract with the NFL. However, the NFL has other contracts with other carriers to provide that same content via other methods. For example, you can watch those games on a Verizon Wireless phone via exclusive contract. You could not, then, watch those on a Sprint phone, for example. If ESPN's content were made available via web, that contract would be violated.
Before ESPN could provide any of their existing content via streaming platform, they would need to change their contracts with content providers, and there are a lot of contracts to renegotiate. Some of those, such as the NFL, would not be possible at this point to renegotiate at all. Without those renegotiations, a useful ESPN platform is impossible.
Marissa Mayer was made CEO, the name Yahoo had mostly faded from the mainstream. This did not mean that people had stopped using the service; in fact, usage was not down, just not something people talked about. Of course, anywhere people are using a data collecting service, the government takes notice, even when the press does not.
One way the US government took notice of Yahoo in the years before Mayer remade the company's image in the public was in secret, sealed data requests. These requests, and the ones issued to other tech companies, became the basis for a little program named PRISM. PRISM was the program that Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor, sacrificed everything to make public.
What is different about the Yahoo requests is the company's response. When the requests came in, Yahoo declined to turn over the data without an issued warrant; they claimed the warrantless data collection to be "unconstitutional and overbroad," bringing the matter to court. Unfortunately for Yahoo, and the American public, the case did not go well. Yahoo General Counsel said,
Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)... ordered us to give the U.S. Government the user data it sought in the matter.
Despite the court loss, Yahoo still refused to turn over the data, under the same claims of unconstitutional behavior. That's when the government threatened fines: $250,000 per day for non-compliance. They also used the sealed results of the private court case and fines to threaten other companies. When complete, the PRISM program was collecting information constantly from the likes of AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Skype (before and after Microsoft purchase) and YouTube.
All because of Yahoo's loss in court, the US government was able to create the PRISM program, and stock it with data about people all over the world: US citizens and not. It is an interesting notion that Yahoo could have had so much of a secret effect on the globe while having seemingly no public effect.
Marissa would see to it that Yahoo would continue to make a mark in the PRISM case after the Snowden leaks came out. She released
a transparency report showing as much information as she was legally permitted to about the nature and targets of the data requests, dating back to 2007. Because of this, other companies on the list also released reports, including Microsoft/Skype.
One of the more interesting pieces of information that came from the
Xbox One reveal was Microsoft's commitment to the Xbox 360 platform. In addition to the continued stream of games that would come to the older console, Microsoft also announced a new version of the hardware, helping to solidify the 360's continued existence.
Today we are over a year removed form the announcement of the Xbox One, and nearly a year removed from the release of the console. In the past, this has been the point when a console manufacturer starts to phase out their previous platforms. Not necessarily quickly, but certainly a limiting focus on said platform. The PlayStation 2 had begun to disappear from stores a year after the PlayStation 3 was released; the original Xbox hardware was all but extinct a year removed from the release of the Xbox 360.
So, what about this generation? Well, Microsoft, in addition to the recent
white Xbox One, we get to see some other holiday bundles, and the Xbox 360 is front and center. In fact, there are 3 new Xbox 360 holiday bundles, including a brand new color for the console.
First, we have a standard black Xbox 360 4GB Kinect bundle, which comes with
Kinect Adventures, Kinect Sports, and Forza Horizon and will retail at Target for $249. Next comes a standard black Xbox 360 500GB console, which will come with Call of Duty: Ghosts and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The console will also retail for $249 at various retailers. Finally comes the surprise bundle; it is identical to the previous bundle, except it comes in "arctic blue."
The color is bright, vibrant and wonderful, if you are into crazy colored electronics. Myself, I have a bright blue HTC 8Xt and bright red HTC 8X and a red case for my Surface. Because of this, if I was without an Xbox 360 today, I would consider picking up this wonderfully odd-colored Xbox 360 bundle. In addition to the color, this console, as well as the other bundles, all come with a free month of Xbox Live Gold, meaning you could get an additional 2 games through the
Games with Gold program.
Are you currently without an Xbox 360? Would these deals, or the crazy color of the final bundle, make you consider adding a 360 to your home theater setup? Let us know in the comments.