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Amazon and Apple TV deal shows how to solve business conflicts

I didn’t see this as an enterprise-focused story at first, but a recent compromise between Amazon and Apple shows how communication can help even opposing businesses solve problems and grow value.

Amazon and Apple make a deal

Amazon this week suddenly began permitting Prime subscribers to access and purchase content from Prime using the iOS app.

To the vexation of many users, this wasn’t possible before. You had to visit Amazon’s site on a computer, purchase the item you wanted, and only then could this be accessed using an iOS device, including Apple TV.

The process was annoying, and was purely driven by the two billionaire multinationals arguing over who would get to keep a share of the purchase price.

Customers suffered to protect the all-important bottom line.

Now this has changed, and it has become possible to access and purchase Amazon’s content via the app. That’s better for any customers out there seeking out some entertainment during lock down. But, like so many of the little things, this arrangement suggests a shift in the way both companies think about their business and how to compete in the streaming media landscape.

Quid pro quo

An investigation by John Gruber shows that the deal kind of works in a slightly more complex way: Not only can you purchase content through Amazon’s iOS app, but you can also now buy Amazon Prime subscriptions through the app.

When you purchase a subscription using an Apple device, Apple gets a cut (presumably 30%) of the deal.

However, if you purchase a Prime subscription on Amazon, this will be honoured.

It goes further, as the support also means:

  • Integration with the Apple TV app.
  • AirPlay 2 support.
  • tvOS apps.
  • Support for universal search, Siri and zero/single sign-on.

In other words, you can more easily access movies purchased from Amazon on Apple TV, stream them from your device to an AirPlay 2-supporting television and also search for things using the Apple remote.

What Apple says

In a statement, Apple explains:

“Apple has an established program for premium subscription video entertainment providers to offer a variety of customer benefits — including integration with the Apple TV app, AirPlay 2 support, tvOS apps, universal search, Siri support and, where applicable, single or zero sign-on. On qualifying premium video entertainment apps such as Prime Video, Altice One and Canal+, customers have the option to buy or rent movies and TV shows using the payment method tied to their existing video subscription.”

What this means

Apple’s note around Altice One and Canal+ is significant.

The company has been working with some cable service suppliers to integrate its streaming systems with others. In Portugal, for example, the Apple TV is provided as to those who subscribe to MEO, and ships with MEO content available as an app.

Apple’s move to recognize Amazon as a de facto streaming services provider means it is beginning to recognize the need to work in more complex partnerships with others.

We don’t yet know if this sets the bar for how Apple intends working with others in future, though I do hope it does.

While doing so may slightly reduce the amount of cash Apple claws back on subscription deals for third-party content services, the benefits in terms of customer experience and widened content access are huge.

It is, after all, now pretty clear that Apple’s TV+ service will not defeat any other service out there – it just doesn’t have the content.

Why is this an enterprise-focused story?

I see it as a parable, really.

Apple, Amazon and others are all actively engaged and compete to define the future of television, but that future cannot be a zero-sum game.

The fact that these competitors are finding ways to work constructively together is a salutary lesson, as both benefit from the arrangement, while retaining their own individual identity.

(It’s also potentially a reaction to heightened anti-trust oversight in some territories.)

It seems typical of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s approach to complex challenge.

Describing his work with the current U.S. administration, he has said:

“The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena. So, whether it’s in this country, or the European Union, or in China or South America, we engage. And we engage when we agree and we engage when we disagree. I think it’s very important to do that because you don’t change things by just yelling. You change things by showing everyone why your way is the best. In many ways, it’s a debate of ideas.”

A willingness to dialog is essential for any business facing any challenge. The Amazon/Apple arrangement shows how even competitors may benefit by reaching around such walls. Particularly when doing so also enables both parties to do a more right thing.

We have to hope other streaming services providers get involved, as once they do then Apple’s TV app on the multitude of devices that support it will become a brilliant (and personalized) way to access all your content. 

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Can Web Designers Save the World?

I know this might seem like an odd question to ask. After all, it’s not like we’re living in a villain-filled Gotham City in need of saving.

When it comes to asking the question, “Can web designers save the world?”, I look at it like this:

Superheroes don’t exist in real life, so there’s no way that one single person on this planet is going to “save” the world — web designer or otherwise. But heroes that fight small battles that add up to larger wins for humanity? They certainly do exist and web designers collectively have the ability to help shape and save the world this way.

 

How Can Web Designers Save the World?

We see it all the time from those around us: People who donate blood regularly; Volunteers who rebuild homes and cities after natural disasters; Households that practice sustainability through recycling and composting.

These might seem like small acts of kindness on an individual level, but when you put everyone’s efforts together, there’s a lot of good being done for the world.

Web designers can make contributions of their own, too.

1. Work for Clients Doing Good

I know it can be hard to be picky about who you work with. But when you reach a point in your design career where your revenue stream is stable and you feel confident saying “no” to clients that aren’t a good fit, you may want to factor this in.

In other words, rather than say “yes” because a client can afford your rates, build websites for businesses that:

  • Have sustainable initiatives;
  • Lend support to their local communities;
  • Take really good care of their employees;
  • Build products that make the world a better place;
  • And so on…

By building websites for companies like these, you’ll empower them to spread their positive messages and missions far and wide.

2. Design Accessible Websites

It’s not just the World Wide Web Consortium that promotes a “web for all”. Accessibility is an innate human right that governments are now taking action to protect as well.

As a web designer, you have a crucial role to play in this. If you aren’t yet in the habit of making your websites accessible, today is as good a time as any to start.

Keep in mind that it’s not just about making a website easy for impaired visitors to navigate or see. Accessibility means making it so that everyone can access a website equally. For instance, building a progressive web app would allow a business to get its website into the hands of people in developing parts of the world that might not always have fast or reliable Internet access.

So, don’t forget to think outside the box for accessible solutions.

3. Practice Ethical Web Design

The Internet has done a lot of good for this world, but as we grow more permanently connected to it and our devices, users have begun to experience a slew of negative side effects.

While you don’t want to keep people from the web or the companies and services they need, you can make better choices about how you design online experiences for them. Namely, you can use ethical design features and techniques to encourage healthier online habits.

Many apps, for example, now come with daily time reminders.

Although this solution wouldn’t work for a website, you could try to accomplish something similar by reducing the number of push notifications or emails sent from your site. You use these elements to promote re-engagement with your website, so by reducing how many or how frequently they go out, you can keep users from aggravating their addiction to the web or their smartphones.

4. Use Eco-Friendly Design Tactics

If you want to help save the physical planet we’re on, utilizing eco-friendly or sustainable design practices would be a good idea. You may be using many of them already without actually knowing it.

For instance, many leading web hosting providers are investing in renewable energy to power their infrastructure and, consequently, their customers’ websites. It’s a simple thing — switching to a “green” web hosting plan — but it can have a significant impact on the planet as more and more companies head in that direction.

Certain choices you make for the websites you build can help the planet as well. For example, by creating more efficient user pathways, people won’t spend as much time on your website and, hopefully, online. Even things like minimal design, image optimization, and caching can help as your server doesn’t have to waste so much energy trying to serve it to visitors.

5. Lend Your Skills During Global Crises

As I was looking over recent research and reports for web designers, I discovered an article from Dr. Stephanie Evergreen on Fast Company. It suggested that web designers had an important part to play during global crises, like the Coronavirus pandemic.

As a data visualization specialist, she knows how much easier it is for consumers to understand data and directives when it’s designed visually. And we’re not just talking about laying out statistics in a table. She cites various examples of creative graphics that spell out difficult-to-understand concepts.

This graphic on the Australian Government Department of Health homepage, for instance, is a good example of that in action:

Australian Health Department - Coronavirus Graphic

The graphic on the left could’ve just been a boring text banner (like the one on the right) or, worse, a cheesy stock image of people coughing. Instead, the designer made a great choice by creatively depicting and labeling the most common symptoms of the virus.

Whether you’re tasked with designing something like this to help in a crisis, or you normally work with medical or scientific organizations, your ability to translate quantifiable data into beautiful graphics can make a world of difference.

 

Wrap-Up

Will you, as one web designer, be able to save the world? Eh, probably not. But your contribution made alongside other web designers definitely will.

Just remember that saving the world isn’t always about cleaning up the planet or locking away criminals. The people that you choose to work with, the design techniques you use, and the kinds of websites you put out into the world can have an impact, too.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.



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Flashback Friday: Now he’s a believer

This sysadmin pilot fish doesn’t put much credence in the stories he hears about the IT manager at his new job — too far-fetched.

“He was known for putting the staff in impossible situations,” says fish. “He would attend planning meetings and agree to criteria that simply couldn’t be met, then tell everyone to just make it happen. Of course, the consequences were our fault as well.”

Then one day fish and his team go to the IT manager to explain the need for more file server capacity. They have the data showing current capacity, growth over time and the expected date when they’ll hit the wall.

IT manager’s only response: “No.”

So the team goes looking for other options, and identifies files on users’ home drives that can be removed to increase capacity without impacting the business. They bring the new proposal to the IT manager.

To read this article in full, please click here



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Windows by the numbers: Windows 7 holds fast as pandemic upends everything

Windows 10’s share remained flat in March, though users had an excuse for pausing migrations: the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

According to metrics vendor Net Applications, Windows 10 accounted for 57.3% of global OS share last month and represented 64.3% of the various flavors of Windows powering PCs. Although the former was near a tie with the month prior, the latter – a better indication of Windows 10’s success in convincing users to upgrade – was significantly lower than February’s 65.1%.

Windows 10’s percentage of only Windows PCs was larger than the percentage of all personal computers because Windows did not power every system. In March, Windows was the OS of 89.2% of the world’s personal computers – an increase of a full point. Of the rest, all but a tiny fraction ran macOS, Linux or Chrome OS, in decreasing order.

A March increase in Windows overall share was the cause of Windows 10’s decrease when calculated as a portion of just Windows. (Windows 10’s part of the pot didn’t get larger in March, but the pot itself did.)

The stabilization of Windows 10’s share, following February’s very minor uptick, has altered the forecast for the operating system. All signs point now toward a significantly slower uptake.

Rather than reaching 75% by September and nearly 80% by the end of 2020 – numbers from last month’s prediction – Windows 10 now looks like it won’t make those marks until January 2021 and May 2021, respectively.

It’s impossible to know with any certainty, of course, but the pandemic and its countless disruptions of normality, from business closures to workers trying to keep things running from home, has to have put the kibosh on migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10. With everything in such flux, if not downright chaos, it’s easy to believe that many have decided that now isn’t the time for anything but the most critical tasks.

And a Windows 7-to-Windows 10 upgrade, even when the former has had its security updates terminated, no longer deserves a spot on that task list.

Windows 7 stays strong

As Windows 10 moved nary a whit, Windows 7 actually grew its share during March.

Net Applications pegged Windows 7 at 26.2% of all desktop operating systems, up a percentage point from February. As a portion of only Windows, the 2009 OS was estimated at 29.4%, a gain of eight-tenths of a point over the month prior. The increases were the largest since September 2019.

The numbers don’t mean that 12 million or so PCs magically reverted to Windows 7, transformed from Windows 10 as part of some secret rollback. Instead, the Net Applications’ data, which measured activity, may have simply signaled that many dusted off their older, largely unused personal PCs when they were told by employers to head home and work – or try to work – from there.

If that speculation has some factual basis, Net Applications should continue to report a steadfastness by Windows 7 as those machines are pressed into service through the COVID-19 crisis. In turn, Microsoft might be pressed by customers, including its very important commercial, enterprise-sized customers, to restore security updates to Windows 7 for, perhaps, the duration of the pandemic.

Microsoft already produces those updates for its corporate Extended Security Updates (ESU) program, which for a fee has provided companies fixes for vulnerabilities tagged as “Critical” or “Important” during both February and March. The Redmond, Wash. developer could deliver these patches to every Windows 7 PC – again, as long as the work-at-home mandates last – and compensate paying customers by extending the updates by as many months.

Elsewhere in Net Applications’ data, Windows 8/8.1 bumped up one-tenth of a percentage point, ending March at a 4.2% share of all personal computers but 4.8% of those running Windows. Meanwhile, macOS sloughed off half a percentage point last month, powering 8.9% of all personal computers. It was the first time since July 2019 that Apple’s operating system slumped below 9% and its lowest mark in two and a half years.

Net Applications calculates operating system share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to reach the websites of Net Applications’ clients. The firm tallies visitor sessions to measure operating system activity.



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I’ve finally figured out why foldable phones actually exist

Ever since the first foldable phones were foisted upon us, I’ve been struggling to understand their purpose.

They’re cool, sure — and technologically speaking, they’re incredibly impressive. But from a practical, ten-fingered human perspective, what benefit do they actually provide? I’ve yet to hear a single unambiguous answer. And that’s to say nothing of all the significant downsides and compromises they require.

At first, I assumed the foldable phone fad was similar to other questionable-benefit smartphone trends of the moment — counterproductive elements like “waterfall displays,” cutouts in the active viewing areas of screens in exchange for smaller borders around said panels, and heck, even 5G — in that it was ultimately conceived as a way to make appliance-like devices seem new, exciting, and meaningfully different from their predecessors (and thus suddenly worth buying at a time when most of us are content to stick with our current phones for increasingly long periods).

But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that something even deeper is going on in this domain. Plain and simple, I don’t think device-makers actually want people to buy their current foldable phones, nor do they want tech writers to cover them closely in the way they’d cover a typical high-profile product arrival.

The foldable phones of the moment, I suspect, exist mostly to serve as marketing vehicles for the brands behind ’em. They aren’t about the experiences they provide — which consistently fall short of being commendable, let alone exceptional; they’re about the idea they represent that the company whose name is stamped on the exterior is an innovator, a leader, a hardware authority paving the way to an exciting new mobile-tech future.

And that idea resonates only if you don’t look too closely.

The evidence of this approach is everywhere, once you really start thinking about it. Remember the release of the Motorola Razr? That product was hyped as hard as any cellular apparatus in recent memory. The buildup to its arrival was nothing short of monumental — and then, at what should have been the attention-commanding climax, the phone just sort of…fizzled.

Take the launch event itself, to start: Instead of hosting a high-profile parade timed for maximum visibility, as most phone-makers do with an attention-worthy product, Motorola opted to hold its media moment at 11 p.m. Eastern Time on a Wednesday — without any live streaming, even. It offered attendees limited hands-on time in a noisy environment that, in hindsight, is tough not to suspect was designed at least in part to cover the creaking and croaking we’d hear about when the phone actually hit store shelves three months later.

Speaking of store shelves, if you for some reason wanted to buy the Razr when it technically became available, you were probably out of luck. Stores simply didn’t have ’em, with many retailers reporting they’d never received any units to sell.

Motorola also stayed strangely silent about the numerous issues reviewers uncovered with the phone and went as far as to actively (and, from the sounds of it, somewhat underhandedly) prevent one website from working with iFixIt to investigate the cause of some problems with the device’s display.

Then came the similarly hyped Samsung Galaxy Z Flip — Samsung’s second attempt at a foldable phone and the device built up as being the first foldable worth anyone’s while. Samsung was apparently so eager to have people use the Flip and see what it was really all about that, after weeks of breathless hype and promotion, it made the device available to reviewers for a mere 24-hour period before requiring the units to be returned.

As anyone who’s ever tested gadgets for a living can tell you, that’s extraordinarily atypical. And it’s not nearly enough time to see what a device is actually like to use. (Hmmmm.) The buzz in the writer community also suggested Samsung’s PR squad issued more than a few gentle nudges encouraging sites to focus on the Galaxy S20 flagship with their coverage and not on the far more sensational Flip.

And just like with the Razr, if you actually wanted to buy the Flip once it went up for sale, you were almost certainly out of luck.

Call me crazy, but when you consider all these factors together, it sure seems like the companies making the current crop of foldable phones don’t want anyone to look at ’em for terribly long, let alone go out and buy ’em. They want us all to ooh and ahh over the concepts and the ideas of the technology without closely considering the reality of it. (Former BlackBerry phone producer TCL seems to have found an even more effective way to accomplish that: It’s coming up with eye-catching, coverage-inducing foldable phone forms that don’t even work and aren’t actually for sale.)

Maybe one day, foldable phones will find a reason for existing and a mature enough type of technology to be worth owning. For now, though, the more you think about ’em, the more apparent it becomes that their actual present purpose has less to do with real-world usage and more to do with the message their very existence provides.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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