Posts Tagged Apple

The Apple Car is coming

Apple logoThe news that Apple could possibly be investigating the development of a future production car is quite simply the biggest automotive story since the car was invented.

Apple’s reported hiring of around 200 people with automotive-related experience indicates that the Cupertino, California,-based company is preparing to redefine the automotive industry the way it has redefined so many other industries in the past.

Even though no one outside of Apple knows anything specific about the car—or if it will ever be sold to consumers—we can tell that it will completely change the industry and the fundamental act of moving from one point in space to another.

Here are some predictions about what the car will be like, how Apple will bring a fresh Silicon Valley approach to the moribund Detroit auto industry, and why your car will soon be so hopelessly obsolete that you might as well go out into your driveway and set it on fire right now.

The Apple Car will change everything about the way cars are made and sold. Like the company’s other products, it will be built in a factory in China by underpaid workers entirely using components sourced from anonymous suppliers, but will be designed by Apple in California. No car today is made like that.

Tesla Motors pioneered the idea of selling cars directly to customers instead of through franchised dealers, but Apple will take things further.

Instead of selling cars through its trademark Apple Stores, it won’t sell them anywhere. This streamlines the buying process, saving consumers valuable time they’d normally have to waste test driving, researching, or finding out what a car looks like before buying.

And should those consumers accidentally stumble upon an Apple Car through this disruptive, innovative, new distribution system, they’ll find a vehicle that’s like nothing else on the road today.

The Apple Car won’t be fast, luxurious, spacious, or particularly reliable. Early reports suggest it will feature “minivan-like” styling.

So while existing car companies are stuck in the old way of building cars based on qualities people find appealing or that enable said vehicles to fulfill a practical purpose, Apple will shake things up by being disruptive and innovative.

The Apple Car will transcend these petty considerations of “practicality” and “desirability,” ushering in a new era of transportation the same way the iPhone changed communication. Even though we have no details of the car itself, it’s clear we’re looking at that much of a seismic change here.

In fact, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to predict that the Apple Car will fly, or drive underwater, or maybe even both. It will also be thought controlled.

In addition, the Apple Car is going to end world hunger. Now, you might ask how selling a car is in any way related to a complex global socioeconomic issue like food distribution, but given Apple’s past record of innovation, it’s safe to say that we can expect big things.

To sum it all up, we are essentially primitive beings living on the cusp of the invention of fire in this pre-Apple Car epoch. The Apple Car is coming, and once it’s here we won’t be able to imagine living without it, and not just because we will willfully ignore that recent past out of an intense obsession with feeling technologically savvy.

We pray the merciful Tim Cook and his ministers take pity on us and produce the Apple Car soon, so that we don’t have to wallow in this sad, unfulfilled existence for long.

Advertisements

, ,

Leave a comment

Five things that would have made Richard Nixon a great tech entrepreneur

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneurRichard Milhous Nixon may have been born too early. While our bejoweled and disgraced 37th president might seem like the prototypical curmudgeon, he could have dominated one of today’s hottest industries. Here are five reasons why Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur.

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur1. He loved invading people’s privacy

Consumers have grown a love-hate relationship with tech companies like Facebook and Google because of the way they collect and mine users’ data. This would have seen second nature for a man who organized a break-in at the Democratic Party’s headquarters. Imagine what he could have done with the Internet.

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur2. He was great at playing competitors off against each other

Nixon was a horrible person, but was also a master statesman. One of his most impressive achievement was playing China and the Soviet Union against each other.

Today, just as during the Cold War, we have a few giants slugging it out for world domination. If Nixon was in charge of one of them, you can bet that he would use his rivals’ competitiveness against them.

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur3. He was extremely anti-social

Being creepy and unable to relate to other people isn’t a requirement, but Nixon would definitely find kindred spirits in the same industry that spawned Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

Five things that would have made Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur4. He loved secrecy

Companies need to keep their trade secrets, well secret. Whether it’s Google Glass or the next iPhone, keeping information out of the public eye can create a competitive advantage. Nixon would have loved that.

Just as corporations feel they don’t have to tell anything to anyone but their shareholders, Nixon felt he had not obligation to tell Congress, the media, or voters what he was actually doing. Who else would send Henry Kissinger on a secret trip to China, or retain a team of “Plumbers” to take care of information leaks?

Why Richard Nixon would have been a great tech entrepreneur5. No matter what he did, people accepted him

Did people stop using Facebook when they found out what the company was doing with their information? Did people stop buying Apple products when Jobs’ abusive nature was revealed? No, which is perfect for Nixon.

Tricky Dick thrived on a similarly understanding public. Never a likable guy, he wormed his way out of a campaign financing scandal with the famous “Checkers Speech,” and despite being a commie-hating conservative, he was able to take advantage of public outrage over the Vietnam War to win the presidency in 1968.

While president, Nixon was able to silence critics by co-opting liberal policies (he created the EPA and Amtrak and supported universal healthcare). Nothing could stop him. Well, almost nothing.

Like today’s tech barons, Nixon didn’t car about being liked, and found ways to make it so that the public didn’t have to like him either.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Digital nausea

serversIn his first novel, Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre describes how inanimate objects can stifle the growth of an individual’s identity. Of course, anyone with a large amount of possessions knows that these objects can become overwhelming in a physical, as well as an existential, way.

Consumerism is an important part of modern society, but eventually people start running out of places to put things. That explains why so many people flock to minimal devices like iPods and Kindles to store their collections of music and books. However, what they may really be doing is creating nausea in a new medium.

My original iPod still works perfectly, despite being several years old, yet I had to trade it for a newer one because it ran out of space. As soon as I got the new one, I gathered my CDs for an upload session, only to realize that, loaded with music, photos, and other files, my computer itself was running out of space.

Of course, there are devices with more storage space. I could always upgrade further to an iPod Classic, which has 160 GB of space, and a new Macbook Pro with up to 750 GB, just as an example.

If that’s not enough, there’s always the Cloud. Internet companies have massive buildings full of red hot servers that can store a lifetime’s worth of data.

Still, I wonder if that would just prolong the inevitable. Like cars on a new stretch of freeway, stuff has a tendency to fill any vacuum. Empty space just isn’t useful, even if it is a good insurance policy.

In “Billenium,” a dystopian fiction story by J.G. Ballard, two people in an overcrowded future discover a hidden room. In a world where living space is dolled out four square meters at a time, this normal-sized room is a treasure… Until the discoverers  invite more and more people and the open space disappears.

People seem to do the same thing with their purchases, especially when music is just a click away and only $0.99 per song. But what happens when we can’t cram any more entertainment into these tiny containers?

Each individual needs to decide when the line between collector and hoarder, or between functional human being and sufferer of nausea, has been crossed. It’s just important to remember that everything, even in digital form, takes up space.

Our future selves may laugh at bookshelves and CD cases, but that future will be built on a trail of discarded devices and new server nests. We spend a lot of time in the digital universe, but we still exist in the physical one.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Apple’s taxes: What is the right thing to do?

Ben Franklin famously said that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Over 200 years later, it’s still impossible to cheat death, but not taxes. The New York Times recently published an expose on how Apple and other tech companies use perfectly legal loopholes to finagle their way out of paying state and federal taxes. Apple uses subsidiaries in states (Nevada) and countries (Luxembourg) with more favorable tax rates in order to hang on to as much cash as possible.

Apple isn’t the first American company to be accused of cheating on its taxes, but that doesn’t explain why. Apple wants to maximize profits like any other company, but it also has a reputation for good citizenship. Doesn’t being a good citizen include paying taxes?

In a statement, Apple noted that it gives a significant portion of its untaxed profits to charitable organizations. “We have contributed to many charitable causes but have never sought recognition for doing so,” the company said, “Our focus has been on doing the right thing, not on getting credit for it.” Over the past two years, Apple has donated $50 million to Stanford University, another $50 million to an African aid organization, and started a matching donation program for employees.

If Apple is willing to give freely to charity, why does it squirm at the thought of paying taxes, which fund the same good works. Taxes take away from a company’s profits, but so do donations. At least taxes pay for the infrastructure required to keep a company in business and, you know, keep it in compliance with the law.

Some people believe that, by headquartering itself in California, Apple has “done enough.” The company does not need to pay more taxes, because paying some is better than paying none. If we were still talking about charity, that would make sense; you can’t force an organization to donate a certain amount of money to African aid.

However, taxes are a legal, not a moral, issue. For both individuals and companies, being in the United States means paying taxes. The amount is determined by a duly-elected representative government. Apple needs to pay its fair share, because otherwise everyone else will have to pay more than their fair share. Paying the correct amount of taxes is not optional, at least not for most people.

Companies may hate to part with cash, but taxes benefit them in other ways. The government programs funded by taxes make our society work. How can we help people in Africa if we can’t even maintain streets in Worcester, Massachusetts?

It’s a point that often goes unnoticed in our modern society of corporate worship. Yes, Apple gives us amazing technology that makes our lives easier. It also creates jobs and pays some taxes. Still, Apple needs the United States as much as the U.S. needs Apple. Steve Jobs gave his customers personal computers, and his customers made him rich. He took advantage of America’s entrepreneurial spirit, and rich economy, to found a company. Would things have worked out as well if Jobs was born in Russia?

I’m a huge fan of Apple products (this piece was written on an Apple computer), and I’d like to think that there is more than sheer greed behind the company’s actions. Apple said it just wants to do the right thing, regardless of public recognition. Not dodging taxes is definitely the right thing to do. If Apple continues to scrimp, it may getting some unwelcome publicity, and not the kind that includes awards and pats on the back.

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Instant Isolation

Pandora logoI really hate “Moves Like Jagger.” It’s a mediocre pop song with a stupid premise. Is Maroon 5 so lame that they have to invoke Mick Jagger? Are they too uncool to sing about themselves? But I digress.

That song came on the radio this morning, so I had to start flipping through channels to get away from it. If I had satellite radio, an iPod dock, or some form of internet radio, I could be reasonably assured that I would never have to hear about Jagger’s moves ever again. However, that’s not a world I would want to live in.

The Digital Age gives people the opportunity to focus on what they like, to the exclusion of everything else. No matter how esoteric your taste in music is, you can build a playlist  around it. Like Indy-emo-punk rock played on the hubcaps of a 1977 Chevy Caprice? Just do an iTunes Power Search, or punch some keywords into Pandora.

That is definitely a good thing, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are other things out there. Most people listen to the radio while driving, but thanks to digital music, they never have to listen to the same music as everyone else. Many cars come with internet or satellite radios, and internal hard drives that can store a person’s entire music library. The iPod has become a shape-shifter.

Hearing your favorite song on the radio used to be a moment of joy, because you had to wade through all the dreck of bad songs, commercials, and annoying DJs to get to it. Today, we live in an age of instant gratification. Again, everyone deserves to hear what they want, when they want (power to the listeners!) but we have to consider the adverse effects of this technology.

Is it possible that we’re getting too compartmentalized? We have a good idea of what we like, but do we know what other people like? It helps to at least be aware of what other people are reading, watching, or hearing. At the very least, it helps us figure out what we don’t like and, consequently, who we are. It can also help us relate to each other more easily, instead of walling ourselves off from the rest of the world in little boxes of taste.

Derivative pop songs can be very annoying, if you’re not into bad music, but not everyone has the same taste. Along with opposable thumbs, difference is the most essential part of being human. With that in mind, remembering that there are other people out there besides ourselves can’t be a bad thing. It might even create a little empathy (gasp!). Alright, maybe this is taking things a little too far. However, one thing is for sure: traditional radio helps you appreciate the little things, like every blessed moment “Moves Like Jagger” is off the air.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment