Arash Christopher Eslami's Blog


Archive for the category “Tech”

Is Apple on the Ropes?

As I see it, Apple will be succumbing to a bitter fate of being dragged down from its high pedestal by the hands of Google and Samsung.  For many, this may seem a rather melodramatic hyperbole, and I would agree.  But then again Samsung has just taken out another big bite of Apple’s market share.  The latest numbers show Android—Google’s operating system—has gained a bare minimum market share of 20% while Apple has lost at least 4%, as high as 11% in Australia, in the four big Euro-markets: Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

Apple is the biggest corporation in the world in terms of market cap.  Their $580 billion market cap is bigger than Exxon Mobil’s for at least over a year now.  The company, though, makes hardware: iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, and Macintosh.  They also make software.  Apple’s lion share of revenue comes from selling their hardware line.  So it’s no surprise that the company averages 40% profit margins as a result of high cost of revenue.  When you compare Apple to its rivals, i.e. Google and Microsoft with 65% and 75% margins respectively, then you see the advantages of being an internet or software based business.

Apple is in trouble because the Android operating system is the purveyor of all competing Google and Samsung hardware.  Android is killing iOS in Europe and they’re about even in the US and UK.  If Android begins selling more smartphones, tablet computers, etc. than Apple in these equal markets, then what recourse does the latter have?  None.  Hardware is their business.  Samsung is in the hardware business, too, whereas Google’s smartphones are simply stepping stones since the majority of their revenues come through the online business.

Mobile operating systems are becoming more important because people are migrating their online activities on the smartphone.  This is why companies like Facebook are scrambling to streamline their mobile app presence as fast as possible.  Smartphone online shopping, for example, is quickly rising with eBay and Amazon leading the way with over 12 million unique visitors in June on their mobile shopping apps.

Ebooks have just surpassed sales over printed books on Amazon in their UK market.  Amazon, already sells more ebooks in the US than paperback.  Assuming this trend continues, it seems as though people will soon tire of paying the iPad premium to the $200 Nexus 7 and, of course, Amazon’s more affordable Kindle Fire.

Apple still represents quality among buyers and businesses.  A prime example is the company Geode, which specifically designed a digital wallet for the iPhone.  If printed books are has beens because of ebooks, then this Geode technology might be the indicative fate of hard cold cash.

It will be interesting to see where Apple is in two years.  They’re a smart company who might benefit from making more endeavors in the online business.  They could buy Twitter, for instance, taking revenues from online ads.  More viable options in this fast changing environment will help Apple keep its rivals at bay.


Can I Have an Avatar in Blue, Please…?

Dmitry Itskov actually believes we will have technology in 30 years to become immortal, kind of like a vampire.  That is even more optimistic than Ray Kurzweil.  I like to believe this stuff because I have a great imagination.  It feels great to think that once our bodies start to decline and die, like everybody else, we can simply have our brain transplanted into a machine.  That really implies that we are our brain.  If my brain was taken from my skull and placed inside a machine with a brain-computer interface, then apparently I would be the same consciousness in a different body.

This takes us back to an ancient argument when Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle contemplate the soul.  Is the mind the soul?  Is the brain the mind?  I remember taking a philosophy of mind course and saying to myself of course the brain is the mind.  It is only a difference in semantics.  But I would also say that the brain connects us to the mind; in other words, the brain, a physical substance, is the medium we use to connect ourselves into the intangible, spiritual realm.  So then to modify my earlier statement: we are the brain because we are physical and the mind is not the brain since it is abstract, not physical.

So this idea about Avatar is so amazing to me.  Digressing, just a bit, the movie Avatar was such a great movie.  To me it was as great on screen as Harry Potter was on print.  That is a bold statement for me because I am a huge J.K. Rowling fan.  But just like the movie, an avatar is any embodiment as of a quality or concept in a person, according to the Webster dictionary.  It is kind of like the personification of a symbol: the personification being the mind and the symbol being the avatar–the incarnation of god, a piece at least.  My avatar on the internet is a quality of my person.  Some people’s avatars have pictures of themselves along with their email, Twitter handle, phone number, and so on.  I love the root of words, hence, my classical training in Greek and Latin.  Avatar, though, is not a Greek/Latin root but Sanskrit: ava means down and tarati, a verb, means (she) crosses over.  In Hinduism, avatar is the incarnation of god.

What a connection!  I mean if we agree the soul and mind are synonymous because they’re both intangible, then both the Western definition and Hindu avatar implies the mind is god.  Some may think this is too great a leap in reasoning so let me elaborate.  The Avatar project claims by 2045, they will be able to download consciousness on a synthetic platform.  This could be an integrated circuit or by then a three-dimensional molecular chip in a binary code—our digital selves.  So the brain, the hardware, will no longer be needed since consciousness, the software, is successfully being downloaded into another body—a machine.  So corroborating my main point that if the brain is the person, and the brain connects humans to the mind—the universal soul—then ridding ourselves of the brain by downloading our consciousness, we are essentially incarnating a piece of god into an avatar.

This identity metamorphosis is already happening.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Eugene K. Chow, a Huffington Post writer, writes the following:

Essentially, the root of the problem lies in the gap between our digital selves and our physical selves. We’ve ceded power to our electronic profiles and now our physical beings matter less than the data — the person in front of the immigration agent, poll worker, or bank teller is meaningless compared to what is on the screen.

In other words, data now constructs our identity rather than vice versa. That is to say, if the Social Security Administration believes you are dead, then you are denied all the rights of the living, even if you appear in person.

Mr. Chow, I am sure, is a very bright young man who represents a contemporary understanding of what is happening in our culture.  Unlike a Stephen Hawkings or an Immanuel Kant, Mr. Chow is an average joe who relates with everyday people.  I think he hits the mark in that the transition of forsaking our physical selves for a digital self is already happening on a certain level.

“Avatar” project aims for human immortality by 2045

“Avatar” project aims for human immortality by 2045.

I found this article very interesting.  If you want to see how ambitious some people are about extending life, this is worth a look.

Faceoff of the Three Musketeers: Google, Apple, and Facebook

After the Altair 8800 in 1975 ushered in the digital era because of its microprocessor, a lot of things have not only changed but they’ve been changing faster.  The growth of companies like Facebook, founded in 2004, in just eight years has over 845 million active users.  Having launched its IPO in 2004, Google’s search engine is the most used web site in the world.  Then you have Apple who has over $27 billion in free cash sitting on the side in case it wants to buy anything.

What’s at stake is how fast these three companies can position themselves in a rapidly developing social network market.  There’s no question Facebook has the potential to become a great company, but with its staggering stock price hitting an all time low today at $21.71, they have a long way to go.  And as a harbinger of trouble, the company had 2.14 billion outstanding shares last week and today they only have 1.88 billion shares outstanding.  Someone is buying that stock and it is because they’re scared.

Still, you cannot ignore the gargantuan threat Facebook offers in internet traffic.  Google responded today by buying Wildfire Interactive—a social media marketing software company—in the ballpark of $250 million.  This acquisition comes on the heels of its purchase of Sparrow, an email application, in hopes it can build the same success it had on the iOS.   A significant reason for Google’s success is its execution speed: the time it takes after it buys a company to assimilate and apply it in its own business model.

How will Apple react to Google?  They bought AuthenTec, a network security company, a little over two weeks ago for $356 million.  So you can expect the next iPhone to have the latest in integrated security.  Apple, though, is slower to act than its rival, Google, which is clearly demonstrated by its track record.  Since its IPO in 1980, the company has only made $1.62 billion in acquisitions compared to Google’s $21.4 billion.  One company Apple might have its eyes on is Twitter.  The social network recently passed the 500 million user plateau mark although this number is somewhat skewed.  That is, only 27% of those 500 million accounts are active users.  Still, Twitter would be the perfect platform for Apple to compete with Facebook and Google+.  The private company would cost Apple approximately $10 billion.

If you want to have a better idea of how fast the digital era is accelerating things around you, then take a look at print media verses digital.  There are those out there who fervently believe that printed books will never go out of style.  It wasn’t too long ago when the New York Times made major efforts to increase their online presence as a result of a fading print subscriber base.  The Financial Times, the historic British newspaper, now has more digital subscribers than it does in print.  That generation of young folks who haven’t ever read a physical book, but have read plenty of e-books, is already here. Hold on to your print because in the very near future they might be collector items.

Can We Anticipate Smartphone Growth?

Is the smartphone market going to grow much bigger?  Of course it is, but the question is how fast.

Before proceeding, let’s familiarize ourselves with the current players along with their numbers.  Samsung is the biggest player in the mobile market selling 93 million units in 2nd quarter ending June 2012.  Keep in mind that these mobile units include cells and smartphones.  Samsung owns about 25% of the market, a total of 362 million units deep; they are also growing the fastest of any of its contenders, i.e., Nokia and Apple.

When it comes to smartphones alone, Apple’s iPhone comes a distant second to, again, Samsung.  With Samsung’s smartphone variety they sell almost 200% more units than Apple.  Nonetheless, Apple is a big player whose next product, iPhone 5, releasing in September will do well.

Another thing to keep in mind, especially when you think about the relationship between Google and Apple, is a large part of Samsung’s smartphone sales come from Google: more than 50%. The Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus—Google smartphones—for example, are products made jointly by Samsung and Google.  After Google acquired Mortorola, it gained access to the largest mobile operating system market for smartphones, Android.  It dominates the field and this is in large part how Samsung rules the day.

Now, let’s establish some benchmarks in facilitating a valid projection of smartphone growth.  One digression, though, I was always taught that math equals truth yet numbers can be deceiving:  kind of a paradox, when you think about it.  But as a disclaimer, understand that pass numbers can never determine future results.  They may give high probability and that’s it.  The benchmarks: the phone (1876), radio (1920), television (1928), PC (1971), cell (1983), and of course, the internet (1990).  These dates represent when the technology was either invented or commercialized.  By the way, the 1975 Altair 8800 was the real hero for PC’s that ushered in the digital revolution era with its microprocessor.

Anyway, the point is that the above technologies have accelerated the time it takes before they’re used by more than 50% of the population.   It took the phone almost 50 years before 25% of the American population owned one.  It took the internet less than 10 years.  It’s obvious the turnover rate of information technology is quickening.

Let’s agree, for the sake of argument, that the first smartphone—mobile and PDA combined—commercialized was IBM’s 1994 Simon Personal Communicator.  In 18 years over 30% of the current American population over 12 years of age own a smartphone.  If we stay with the current rate of growth, we could project in the next 24 years over 70% of Americans will own a smartphone.  The growth potential is there, already over 75% of our population uses a cell phone of some sort.

Do You Have ID?

Have you noticed when you try to comment on YouTube now, they interrogate you about your identity.  I remember when I first encountered this, I tried to keep my anonymity.  Well the site didn’t give up that easy, in fact, they asked me “why” I made the decision I did.  Do I have to give an explanation here?  Isn’t my right to remain the obscure commenter on YouTube?

I’ll admit that YouTube has got a rowdy and raucous audience who use expletives, terrible grammar, and a few other faux pas that make some cringe.  But that is the culture of this site.  It never claimed to be the site of the intellectual elite.

Although I can understand the need for standards and accountability.  You have some real troublemakers out there that use internet pseudo-identities to their advantage.  But is this measure of forcing users to divulge their identity going to be a fix-all solution?

No way.  In all likelihood, it’s going to exacerbate the situation by motivating those scallywags to act more covertly.  The real question is how far will Google go with this identity campaign.  They already prevent Google+ users from using an alias.  I am sure you can circumvent that but it is still there.  It might be that the days of anonymity over the internet are quickly vanishing.

In the future, you might have to publish a book like Erika Leonard’s Fifty Shades of Grey, under the guise of E.L. James, to get privilege of using a pseudonym.  Maybe it’s not that bad.  Pardon my digression, but I think we all would happily reveal our identity, or anything else the World Wide Web wants to know, if we could make half the profits that book made.

Is Apple Lossing its Juice?

Apple delivered a disappointing 2012 3rd quarter revenue of $35B in the eyes of analysts at Wall Street who projected higher numbers.  It should be noted that Apple hit $1 billion above and better than their own, internal, analysts had forecast.  Still, they missed their numbers before not too long ago.

The reason Apple has been missing its numbers has been perhaps the transition from the company icon, Steve Jobs, to the current CEO, Tim Cook.  Instead it might just boil down to the product, that is, they didn’t sell as many iPhones and Macs as they normally do.  The company’s IPO was in 1980 with huge success and they have grown fast in recent years.  So it might be the company is in a stagnant phase of its growth.  Or is Apple fever beginning to fade out?

I doubt it.  Their iPads and iPhones will continue to sell big.  Yet there are those who say this is the beginning of the end and that the company want be half as much in 5 years as they are now.  Maybe people are getting quick to the fact that a new iPhone/iPad is released every year so the fever, for a phenomenal product, is finally tapering off.

Again though, on the company’s pros, its stock is $600 per share and even after a negative report, Apple’s market cap is $560 billion!  The company has plenty of cash for acquisitions, which might be the next big play since Google recently purchased Sparrow for under $25 million and Facebook’s acquisition of Instragram for $1 billion.

My Own Personal Assistant…Please!

You ever feel overwhelmed trying to keep track of your daily activities?  It must be difficult trying to keep up with friends or coworkers on different networks like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  I am sure it’s happened more than once where you, in a rush, quickly check your Twitter feed and notice a great book or quote by so and so, but never get back to it because either you’re too tired or just can’t remember where you saw it later on.

And if you’re like most people, hiring a personal assistant to track these things down is outside of your personal budget.  But still, it’s nice to imagine having your own assistant consolidating everything you do in a nice, easy to find, way.  Well stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen because the startup Dexetra has unleashed a new app called Friday.  And yes, quite appropriately on Friday.

The way this app works on your Android is that it aggregates all feeds from third-party services, i.e. Twitter, along with your phone calls, emails, text messages into an accessible base.  We can assume the base will be servers storing everything you’ve done 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Does this sound unnerving if not horrifying?

In addition to the main software the company will offer, what they call, applets which will facilitate Friday’s effectiveness in searching and using your information.  For example, one of the applets will display, depending on what time it is, who you are going to call by anticipating your habits.  It’s kind of like when you search Google and the search engine renders a big sentence before you’ve even typed two letters based on your prior searches.  If you have a half decent imagination, you can probably project where we’re going with all this stuff.  But I will leave that to you.

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