On Learning

Before I start, I apologize for not writing in the past almost two years. I’ve been on a pretty busy adventure and I promise to make up for it. This post will be one of the first of a series of posts not on technology itself but more on my thoughts about how to live in the world of technology.

The technology world only has one constant: change. In the past ten years though, change has accelerated at an incredible pace thanks to the Internet, crowd sourcing collaboration (aka open source) and an economic system that has allowed engineers to take risks. Even though this rapid change is amazing, it’s really hard to keep up with the rate of change but change we must.

Ever since I was a child I’ve been curious about things. I like to explore new things and learn about them. Either learning how to make computers do things, how to make a mercury thermometer or how wine is made. Reflecting about this topic I even found it interesting how I am more interested on the making-of movie add-ons than the movie. My curiosity is broad and has led me to continuously challenge myself to understand the world as a whole rather than its parts. We usually live in a bubble and learning things outside our bubble helps us be better every day.

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Will Nintendo switch fortunes with the Nintendo Switch?

Last week Nintendo finally unwrapped their super-secret project NX. We finally got to know the name of the new console and got confirmation of when we will see it in stores. The name is Nintendo Switch and it will be hitting stores in March 2017. Many rumors and predictions were right!!

Unfortunately, Nintendo did not release a lot of details about the console other than a very short video about some of the key concepts behind it. In a nutshell, the new Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console, but you might wonder what do I mean by hybrid. Simple, it will be a portable console (think Nintendo 3DS) and a home console (think Wii U) bundled in one unique device.

switch

For years, I have thought that Nintendo was going to push for this hybrid idea, after the first time I saw the Nintendo Wii U, back in September of 2012 I thought: wouldn’t it make a lot of sense if I could take the tablet (controller) part of the Wii U everywhere I wanted and not be constrained to just my home? Then Nintendo broke news about the company merging their handheld and console divisions. Obviously, I started dreaming about a possible console that you could take with you anywhere you went but when you come back home you can easily dock into your TV and keep playing. That concept is exactly what was shown in the video for the Switch! Nintendo is basically making my dream come true.

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How iMessage joined the ‘fun messaging apps’ club

Waiting for my delayed flight to take off, I came across Phoneys, an iMessage sticker pack with some controversy.

Phoneys allows users to cover friends’ messages with stickers that look like a real message. In less than a week, it became the #1 Top Paid and #1 Top Grossing iMessage app. Here’s how it works:


Of course, Apple noticed and asked Adam, the developer, to update it so that users don’t get confused or think that their iPhone has been hacked, otherwise the app would be taken down.

With iMessage on iOS 10, Apple tried to create a fun experience that can compete with Snapchat, the king of fun messaging.

A very clever way of doing this was… well, letting others actually do it and lure them into a new iMessage app store (following Facebook’s steps with Messenger).

I find fascinating how Apple simplified and streamlined the creation of stickers for iMessage. Anyone can create a fun experience (and sometimes a cash machine) with a good idea and a few nights of work.

Fun messaging apps are the next gold mine: emojis, stickers, GIFs… the best way of increasing the variety and quality of options is to let 3rd party developers do it. How long will it take for Snapchat to open its own app store?

Adam is now debating what to do with his “stupid little sticker pack”, as he calls it. To him, I’d say: enjoy the viral ride and start thinking of the next great idea, you sure know how to monetize it.

You can read his full story in Medium.

Image via Adam Howell

Will Snapchat’s Spectacles succeed?

Snapchat’s first hardware product was leaked on Friday and surprised everyone: new company name (Snap Inc. for Wall Street folks) and a $130 wireless-connected video-recording sunglasses.

I’m not sure if the company decided to officially announce the new product that same day to avoid losing the momentum created by the leak, but they knew how to do it: an exclusive interview for the Wall Street Journal.

So the biggest question is: will it succeed? Will people buy the Spectacles? Evan Spiegel (Snap’s CEO) downplayed the importance of the announcement by saying that the Spectacles are a “toy” and that the release would be slow.

The company is probably being cautious because of previous market failures like Google Glass. But is this a comparable product? I don’t think so.

Google Glass had a price tag of $1500, an aura of “for developers only” and a futuristic design that didn’t appeal to everyone. Snapchat’s Spectacles are cheap even for a teenager (yes, that same teenager that has an iPhone), have a playful design and are easy to use: just press a button to start recording whatever you are looking at.

Google Glass also failed because of the privacy issues that it raised – am I being recorded right now by that guy? The recording indicator was too soft, so subtle that it creeped people out. The Spectacles have a prominent light when they are recording.

So will it succeed? I think the better question is: will Snap produce the Spectacles fast enough to supply the demand from those teenagers that spend hours glued to their Snapchat app?

Image via Snap Inc.

How to swap your iPhone 6s for the new iPhone 7 using the iPhone Upgrade Program

If you used the new iPhone Upgrade Program to get your iPhone 6s, you will probably be wondering how to swap it for the new iPhone 7 when it comes out next month.

Since this is the very first year that the Upgrade Program has been active, I was wondering the same thing, so I went online to get some answers from the always helpful Apple Store Specialists.

Here is the full transcript:

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016 06:48 PM
Duration: 9 minutes 51 seconds

Apple:
Welcome to Apple.
What can we do for you today?
Ivan:
Hi, I wanted to know how will the iPhone Upgrade Program work when a new iPhone is released. How will I be able to exchange my iPhone for a new one?
Apple:
Please wait while I connect you with an Apple Specialist.
Kaitlyn:
Welcome to the Apple Online Store! My name is Kaitlyn! I can absolutely help with your iPhone Upgrade Program questions.
Are you currently on the iPhone Upgrade Program?
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Saving Twitter

With the acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft, many investors started buying Twitter stock thinking that the struggling social network would be next. Nick Bilton, one of my favorite writers with Twitter insights, recently explained why this is unlikely. So if nobody is going to buy Twitter, what can it do to survive? Can Twitter be saved?

I agree with Bilton, Twitter will not sell in the near future, specially given its latest investments in SoundCloud and Magic Pony Technology. In fact, I believe Twitter has several great opportunities within reach to overcome this difficult period.

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Who needs another messaging app?

Google announced 3 new messaging apps last week: Allo, Duo and Spaces:

All of them provide something slightly new, but do we need all these features to live in independent apps? Continue reading

What’s the mission statement of your favorite tech company?

Last Saturday I found out about AlphaGo, Google DeepMind’s computer capable of beating the European champion at the game Go; it uses “deep neural networks that have been trained by supervised learning, from human expert games, and by reinforcement learning from games of self-play“, and it’s still unknown if humans can beat it.

Watching the project’s website I noticed the copyright at the bottom and thought: is DeepMind actually aligned with Google’s business goals? A quick look to their mission statement refreshed my memory:

Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

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Apple vs FBI, who’s right?

You might think that this case is an easy one, that Apple wants to protect its customers’ privacy and the government doesn’t, that Apple is right and the FBI is not. Well, it’s not that simple.

First, let me provide a little bit of context:

  1. On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tafsheen Malik shot and killed 14 people and injured 22 others at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California.
  2. The FBI recovered an iPhone 5c, issued by Farook’s employer, which “may contain critical communications and data prior to and around the time of the shooting“.
  3. The FBI obtained a warrant to search the iPhone, and the owner of the iPhone gave the FBI its consent.
  4. The iPhone is locked and the FBI asked Apple to help execute the search warrant.

Apple refused on a very long letter written by CEO Tim Cook (full text here). Here’s a little extract:

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

After reading that letter, I concluded that Apple was right, but after a discussion with a good friend, I realized that my conclusion was too simplistic.

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My experience with the Surface Book and Windows Hello

When Panos Panay announced the Surface Book on October 6, I was immediately intrigued by it: could Microsoft really make a great laptop on its first attempt? The Surface line needed 3 iterations to reach maturity, so would it be different this time?

I preordered the Surface Book knowing that there would be quirks here and there (it’s a first-generation device after all), but I was excited to see if it was a true convertible. Would it feel like a real laptop while typing on the physical keyboard? Would it feel like a real tablet while holding it with one hand and tapping around with the other?

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