This Week in Tech 560
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech! Lauren Hockinson is here, Devindra Hardawar, and Sam Machkovech. We're going to talk about the big news from Twitter and Facebook and Apple. The results are in, what it means for those companies, and there's a new Nintendo on its way. Why it's not going to save the company. It's all coming up next, on TWiT.
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Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 560, recorded Sunday, May 1, 2016.
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It's time for TWiT, this Week in Tech, the show where we cover the latest tech news and we have a lovely panel joining us today. Welcoming back Lauren Hockenson, it's good to see you.
Lauren Hockenson: Hi!
Leo: She of the bow.
Leo: this time a lovely gold confection. How many bows do you have?
Lauren: I am unsure, but I believe I have six in my purse right now.
Leo: In case you wanted to match my bow.
Lauren: You got to have options when you're going somewhere and you never know if you're going to switch between events you've got to have your options.
Leo: Host of the Nothing Matters cast at nomatterscast.twitter. Never mind. You're the host of it. That's what matters. On soundcloud? Good place to be. Also with us, Devindra Hardawar from Engadget, great to see you again, Devindra. Welcome.
Devindra Hardawar: Always good to be here.
Leo: I feel like I'm stealing the entire TNT lineup here because also joining us, his first time with us in this show and it’s about time, he's a regular on tech news today, Sam Machkovech.
Sam Machkovech: Hello.
Leo: Am I saying it right?
Sam: Not even close. Machkovech, but I wanted you to try it 8 more times because everyone would go I remember that name. That's really all I...
Leo: It's appropriate to have you on May day, though because were you at the big May day event on the red square today? No?
Sam: I think it's Seattle, Washington.
Leo: Great to have you, welcome. Boy. I don't know where to start. We actually wanted to get Alex Wilhelm here, an evil twin on this show because he covers the finance sector and he was too busy covering the finance sector. It was a big week for quarterly numbers, and I don't think we need to belabor them, but maybe we can touch the highlights. Apple sucks, Twitter is dead in the water, Microsoft, forget about it, pretty much says it all?
Devindra: Facebook is blowing up.
Leo: Facebook is the king of the world.
Sam: They're like 200% for whatever income actually matters? Unbelievable!
Lauren: They're non GAAP.
Leo: Why everybody now does... GAAP stands for generally accepted accounting practices. GAAP. In other words, like real accounting. And everybody does non GAAP numbers, which are phony accounting. Why? They look better because we're leaving out things like stock options and executive compensation, but that's part of your business. I don't understand why they're allowed to do non GAAP, but OK. I didn't see this, apparently you're wearing your kitty cat whiskers today. Are you wearing your invisible kitty cat whiskers?
Leo: That's Michael. MIchael O'Donnell did that, the guy in the red suspenders. Stay away from him. That was the big story of the week, SnapChat face. You can't get away from it.
Lauren: I think the big thing about SnapChat and SnapChat filters is now that you can not only swap your face with somebody next to you, but you can actually put somebody's face on your face, which has been used now to incredible effect by the Hillary Clinton campaign, of all places.
Leo: What? They did an anti-Trump SnapChat, right?
Lauren: And they utilized this new filter on SnapChat that allows you to put anybody's face on your face, so they put George Bush's face on Trumps face and Ronald Reagan's face on Trump's face. Packed in between burns about policy, and I was like wow. They hired someone who is at least 22 years old.
Sam: Obama played it safe last night at the White House Correspondant's dinner. He had a gag when he grabbed Michelle Obama's phone, made a plea about everyone joining HealthCare.gov, and forgot to turn off the auto Face Filter, the joke being that a Satan Face and a Satan voice filter came on. It was a great White House Correspondant's dinner.
Leo: He was pretty savvy. I didn't watch it yet. This is his last one, so he's a little loose. A little relaxed.
Sam: He let it all out, it was really intense.
Leo: There's so much to talk about. Is this Hillary's SnapChat?
Lauren: Her official S apChat. She was putting Bush's face on Trump's face, and yeah.
Leo: that's interesting.
Devindra: They give the interns so much power, or some very young staff member.
Lauren: You got to reach the new voters.
Leo: Do you think if you're a millennial this sways you, like wow. HIllary's so hip.
Devindra: Trying too hard. I don't know. The whole thing about this SnapChat face is hillarious because I don't know if you guys have seen the new season of Silicon Valley, but in the first episode there was a joke that one of these companies was spending so many resources to put fake moustaches on people. That's what's happening right now. It's their most innovative new product.
Leo: Excellent timing, right?
Sam: Devindra, just in case you're wondering, I have hired a new team to work on 1.0. That's why it's a little fuzzy. We're totally working out the tech, I'm really interested in the IPO, so we're going to have some interesting non gap numbers to reveal pretty soon, I'm pretty excited.
Leo: Then he turns the talk on his phone and gets stuck to his ear. As Donald Trump gets closer to winning the GOP nomination, he's realizing something. This is in case you're not following Hillary's SnapChat. Which I am, but the problem is unlike the kid's today, I don't do it often enough. Are you not seeing my LapTop? Oh, there we go. He's realizing something, and then a hat that says "Make Trump presidential." Wow. If they showed this on a television ad, people would be upset. But you can get away with it on SnapChat.
Lauren: That's really the point is they're trying to be cutting edge and hip with the kids, again. The 18-22 voting segment that's just starting might be their first election or they might have voted in the midterms or what have you. They identify with SnapChat, because that's where they all are. That's where the kids are.
Leo: The kids are there because old farts like me and Hillary are not there. Or their parents, right?
Sam: It's such a cheap thing to throw an intern at a new technology, give them some base line rules and hope they don't write the most offensive thing ever. I still my favorite promotion from this election year was when Rand Paul was still in the race for 15 minutes and he had a webcam blocker that had his name on it that you could put on your laptop screen and hide your webcam at all times. He was riding the co-tails of the Snowden exposure stuff and letting you as a citizen know, follow Rand Paul all the way to your digital security future. I'm not sure that would have necessarily worked out the way he had planned. I did not invest in the ten dollar Rand Paul Web blocker, not even for hots and giggles.
Lauren: That could have been a collector's item.
Leo: If FBI director James Comey released a little piece of tape to put over your camera with his name on it, I would use that. He apparently does that. It's an FBI approved filter. I don't know where to start. I feel like the financial news is the least interesting news and it is kind of the big story. Apple stock tumbled quite a bit because Apple did what they said they would do last quarter, which is not grow very much. The iPhone Flat, the Mac Flat, the iPad continues to drop, the iPhone dropped quarter to quarter. But somebody was telling me, My mom who is in her 80's said I don't want to buy any more Apple stuff, they're going out of business. I said, no Mom. They made ten billion dollars in profit in ten months. They made almost a billion dollars a week. They're not going out of business any time soon. But you'd think it if you read the headlines, it's the end of the world, sell your apple stock, they're not growing as fast.
Sam: The whole quarterly growth obsession is going to be hard for Apple when they haven't done something really significant to get developing nations to really care in markets where they're just being flooded with really good Android devices that are just cheap. You can get a flagship Android phone, really great screens, really great cameras, everything you might need in China and India for so much lower. That's going to be the thing that blocks iPhone's development. I don't know if the 5SE is going to be the thing that kicks that into gear and says OK. Here's something affordable and flagship level from Apple, but between that and the lack of things that really target everybody can afford it market, in the way that the iPod did and the way that the iPhone originally did, the Watch is not necessarily something that's driving that . I'm a lower end consumer and I'm going to get on board with Apple.
Leo: Apple has never wanted that market, they've always wanted the high end market.
Sam: You get people in with the phone and get them stuck in that ecosystem, but that's not necessarily a growth sector if you can't find other additional things. what is that for Apple beyond the car? How long until we see something official for Apple beyond poaching employees from Tesla and vice versa? that's the question that's going to be asked by these quarterly growth obsessive stockholders. I'm curious what the next step is to placate that crowd, because if they're starting to get sour, or people are making complaints and selling stock, even if that's a stupid short sighted thing for a company that's `making tons of money, that question is going to continue to be asked.
Lauren: The combination of the stagnant, not a record quarter for Apple in combination with what people perceive as not any innovation coming through on Apple's next product line, I don't think Apple has either thought about or has been good at getting the lower end market. Everybody remembers the 5C, they thought that was going to sell like crazy in China. It turns out, no. Everybody just wanted a rose gold iPhone in China because they're all about using the iPhone as a status symbol. I still think I'm pegging the fact that they are going to come out with a great touch screen laptop and that's going to be their next innovation as it were, although touchscreen laptops are already out on the market. It's the same kind of process, Apple waits, does it the best, and all of a sudden that's the status symbol that people are looking for.
Devindra: That feels like the iPad Pro. Their idea of what a touchscreen laptop would be like.
Leo: Here's the real takeaway, and I don't see a lot of coverage of this from their first quarter results, services. This is a graph of Apple's revenue from services, that's Apple pay, Apple care, Apple music, iCloud, massive jump to six billion dollars in revenue. Highest jump ever. In fact, they made more in services than two thirds of their came from services, not from hardware, and I think what you're actually seeing, and this is going to be an interesting transition for Apple to make is they're changing. They even said this in the last quarter. We're changing from a hardware company to a services company. Traditionally, they're not good at services, which may be a problem. But is that how they're responding to this issue of everybody who wants Apple hardware bought it and no one is buying new Apple hardware? that's all right. We'll make it up in services.
Sam: I'm not necessarily trumpeting that in a big way. Honestly, a lot of that comes from people who forgot to cancel their Apple music trial. I had to set a reminder on my phone just to make sure i wouldn't get caught by it. I don't need another one of these services. That is a really good question. That's going to keep expanding, with everything that they've put out, that's going to be... as people are locked into the Apple ecossytem, if they do come out with a touchscreen coputer that doesn't have an atrocious keyboard, the curren tMacBook that's one of my biggest issues with it. that could be the direction we go, but they've got to speak up. We never talk about that, and that's not something that people are excited to talk about, "Oh, these little micro-transaction things." The money is there, but that's not a sexy thing to talk about.
Devindra: It seems inevitable that they'll grow. More people are getting iPhones, so maybe now you have to pay more for iCloud. Maybe you need that storage-free backup. Maybe you got an Apple TV and you're buying more stuff and renting more stuff. It seems like with the proliferation of their ecosystem, investing in it will more than increase. I'd be interested to know what was the thing that looked at that big jump though. Was it the new Apple TV? I don't know.
Leo: I doubt that it was an Apple TV. I think that this shows, the conventional wisdom of Apple is that Apple needs to find the next iPhone. What is the next hardware breakthrough? Is it the Apple car? They are spending money in a VR division, they've hired some good virtual reality people. I think maybe Apple is thinking to itself, this is where we double down on our success in hardware. We've been building locking and an ecosystem for decades. Now we get to double down on it and make money on the ecosystem. So as long as... we don't need to make a cheap iPhone, they sold 50 million iPhones. It's not like they don't sell iPhones. They don't have hundreds of millions of users, and if we get each of them to pay ten dollars a month for Apple Music, that's a pretty good business. That's not a business to be ignored. That's an annuity on the stable success of a hardware business. What about that? Maybe the problem is ARS Technica still thinks Apple is a hardware company. Maybe it's not just a hardware company any more.
Sam: We're also thinking about the fact that Samsung has truly responded, in terms of what they put out in terms of products and services, their touch whiz isn't as bad, their flagship phones are getting features knocked out that Apple is not responding to. That's going to continue to dominate the headlines. HTC has a good phone now. The ten is coming out next month and we were shocked. It was a few days before the hardware landed in, he had said don't wait for the HTC1, and then he called me after 20 minutes with it and said, "Forget that." don't buy the other one. Just to say that the flagship competition is huge there, that means Apple does have to look at some of its other product lines, some of its other... It has to find excitement. I thas to bring that out. That's something that other Steve has not knocked out of the park in terms of evangelism. He's not getting us excited about the fact that HealthKit is on all of our phones. He's not evangelizing. In the same way. It's all about the message Apple chooses to put out, ultimately.
Leo: An interesting thing happened to Android last year, which was the qualcom Snapdragon 810, which was an unfortunate chip. I think the reason the S6 suffered and a lot of other phones in the US based on this chip. this chip was a hot chip HTC and Samsung both had to downclock it in order for it to be reliable on their phones, and a lot of people had a bad Android experience in 2015. I agree with you, by the way, Sam. I carry an S7, that's my go to phone, and I really like it. The HTC 10 will also be using this new 820, which seems to have solved all the problems of the 810.
Sam: It's a good, cool chip, it's more battery efficient.
Leo: You don't get that lag either. There was real lag in the 810. It was really disappointing. This shows you the difference. When Apple makes their own chips, they make their own hardware, they completely control this tightly, they lock you into services, even Tim Cook in the earnings call said this. He says, "Out team executed it extremely well in the face of strong macro-economic headwinds. He's blaming exchange rates and things like that. We're very happy with the continued strong growth and revenue from services, thanks to the incredible strength of the Apple ecosystem, and our growing base of over 1 billion active devices. I feel like Apple is saying, "We don't have to worry about the Qualcomm. Or Samsung, because we make it all, and we own the ecosystem, and as long as we have a billion active devices and keep it at a billion active devices, we've got a way ahead that makes us a lot of money. That's a different Apple, very much so.
Devindra: I don't think anybody was worried about them making money, it's more about their growth was slowing down. That's also just the symptom of Apple being so freaking successful for seven years now. It's inevitable that this would happen. We should probably have a talk about the ideas, what we're hearing from iPhone rumors at some point. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't get a major refresh this year, based on everything we're hearing. It seems like more of the upgrades are set for next year. What does that mean for Apple? If you go a whole year...
Leo: Whatever comes out in 2017.
Devindra: I wouldn't be surprised if it's the six X or something like that. Another six upgrade.
Leo: They're not timed to the tic toc, right? They don't have to do that.
Devindra: They don't have to do it.
Leo: It's challenging. It's hard, because what are you going to put in a phone nowadays that's going to be the next big thing in a phone? Samsung with Samsung pay showed they have some legs in place of Apple pay. Samsung pay works quite well. I used it at the airport. It works with a swipe machine. They're still surprisingly a lot of swipe machines out there. I thought they'd be all gone by now. I used it at the airport, the guy says I've never seen that. It works just like the ad." That shows you something. Samsung's marketing is getting through, people are aware of Samsung. They're going to survive that 810 problem. That was a big problem for all Android devices last year. Maybe... has Android achieved parody?
Devindra: In terms of devices, yeah. The cameras are getting up there.
Leo: The S7 is much better!
Devindra: S 7 is better. What we've seen from the ten, not so much. The S7 is pretty darn good. I also think on the whole, there's not much that's exciting any more because things have grown so quickly.
Lauren: The other thing is, Samsung is burdened by still having some legacy products and still remaining unedited and unfocused. Samsung still has a TV business and they're still trying to sell tVs in 2016, which to me seems hilarious. I don't know many people who are buying TVs, especially on a global scale at this point. They also stole our relatively unedited in terms of their product line. I think that they tried to do a lot at once, I think when Samsung tastes success, they're more likely to expand and o more things, rather than edit down. I think Apple has been able to curb that by not chasing after every market as it develops.
Leo: Samsung did report their quarterly results, and they had very good quarterly results. Unlike Apple. One of the things they own is OLEDS.
Devindra: That's why they're still doing TVs, right? They're doing all this great display work. That will transition to the phones, eventually. That tech helps.
Sam: Now they're pushing not only 4K, but HDR.
Leo: Is it over for big screens?
Sam: I would say no. I would say HDR at the very least has a mushroom effect than 3d or 4K. That's the kind of thing where that's going to take some time as the content gets rolled out. I also am not going to be the guy who goes, this is going to be the thing that makes TVs big. I was one of the 8 people who thought 3D TV was cool. That being said, HDR is catching in an interesting way, whether there's going to be content and a whole consumer drive for it is another thing. Don't count it out just yet.
Leo: I agree. Devindra, do you say that because the young people watch on littler screens?
Devindra: Yeah. That's what's happening. Most people watch SnapChat content or YouTube content or their phones. That big screen isn't an imperative for so many people.
Leo: I noticed that in our house. The 13 year old will rarely sit down in front of the TV as we adults will. He's got his own screens, and that's what he watches. It's the old fogies who sit in the living room in a sofa looking at a television set. You're an old fogie, Sam?
Sam: I'm watching you on my 50 inch TV right now.
Leo: Do we look good?
Sam: You look fantastic. Not pixelated at all.
Lauren: Normally, I would speak as an expert for the teens, but this week I aged up into a new demographic. I already have a TV. I'm 26 now.
Leo: So young.
Sam: You're no longer a millennial, you're a willennial? Is that how that works?
Leo: What's a Willennial?
Sam: A really bad Will Smith album I like to reference whenever possible. I apologize for that.
Leo: There's a will smith album called Willennial?
Sam: Trying to make it clear the next thousand years were going to be all about Will Smith. It's a scientology thing. That's a whole ‘nother tangent.
Lauren: I do think that you're right. A lot of young people see TVs as something that's a nice to have item, but at the end of the day, they're going to spend thousands on their laptop, or their mobile phone.
Leo: The question if that will change when you get out of the little apartment and you have a living room and you have a family. Or, is that old hat behavior? That's what I don't really know.
Sam: One thing that I would say is consul sales are really high. The Xbox one and the PlayStation 4, it's interesting that their lifespan right now is way past what the XBox 360 was.
Leo: But really high for these is a couple hundred million total, right?
Sam: There is an interest, because it's younger people. There's still an interest in sitting down a TV, I do still think laptops and phones are bigger, but I just wanted to make sure, I don't know why I'm defending television. I feel very...
Leo: You and me, you're over 50 now. That's what happens. You watch a lot more TV.
Devindra: If I had my way, everyone would look closer at projectors or something. Oh well.
Leo: I think it's very interesting. You're right that the big screen market seems to be tanking. Sony, that's killing their profits. I think they're going to get out of that business this year.
Devindra: Sony had a bunch of problems, but Vizio, I hadn't seen their numbers, but the TV is their making. It's incredible.
Leo: They came out with a very aggressively priced piece. Everybody, this is by the way, an HDR TV, and relatively inexpensive, right?
Devindra: It starts at a thousand bucks for the fifty inch model, that's pretty good.
Leo: This was a shock when they announced this a couple weeks ago, because I know Josh, one of our editors was really upset, because he had bought the day before a Samsung TV. These new pieces are lightyears better for less money.
Devindra: They look amazing. No lights on in the room, it was playing something from Man of Steel and the black levels are so insane, the brightness they can get in certain instances looks so much better. I have a Plasma right now, and that was kind of the thing you wanted to get for black levels, but it seems like Vizio has made it there. The only problem with these TVs is there's no TV tuner, which is a weird choice. When we asked to clarify about that, they said we don’t really call them TVs, they're calling them monitors.
Leo: Thank you, this stupid "smart TV" thing, Samsung's so called, I'm watching a TV show on my Samsung and i got a popup saying we're going to discontinue Skype in a couple of months just want to let you know" and I have to click OK to get it off my screen. I don't want a smart TV. I have a Smart TV.
Devindra: It's still smart in some ways because it's all about Google castes, but still.
Leo: These TVs come with a tablet that is now... it's wild. So you're saying that they don't have any... you can't watch Netflix on the TV? You have to use Chromecast?
Devindra: The app is right there on the phone. They've taken out all the smart apps and put them right there on the phone. Any mobile device would work on it too, the thing I was talking about though was the TV tuner. There's no over the air antennae. It was a nice thing to have, especially now you can buy a 20 dollar antennae and get really great looking HD stuff.
Leo: It's the best HD out there.
Sam: It's the only way I watch the Bachelorette. I look at the Rose ceremony and I am like, "I am out."
Devindra: There you go.
Leo: All right, let's take a break on that note. I have nothing to say. Is the rose really red? The red is beautiful.
Sam: We'll find out after the break whether Leo gets the rose.
Leo: There are 8,000 dollar LG OLEDS, which probably have at least on paper a better screen. But who is going to spend that much money? I haven't bought it yet. I do like my OLED. Plasma was definitely better than LCD, but people aren't going to buy it because it was too expensive.
Devindra: It looks great, it's just so expensive.
Leo: Is it some special magic LCD?
Devindra: It's not like Samsung's thing. They're using those...
Leo: Quantum dots.
Devindra: Quantum dots.
Leo: There's no quantum dots? Screw that, I'm not buying it.
Devindra: What's interesting is that Samsung's new TVs are all Edge lits. So that's technically not as good blacklighting. The fact that Vizio is able to get a full array out there because it's so cheap, that's surprising.
Leo: That's Devindra Hardawar senior editor at Engadget. He also co-hosts film cast, talking about Film. /Film. Don't forget the /. /filmcast. Have you reviewed the Jungle Book yet?
Devindra: I loved it.
Leo: Isn't it amazing?
Devindra: So good!
Sam: I was surprised. I went into misremembering who made it, I thought it was the Andy Serkis version, which wasn't coming out until 2018.
Leo: There's going to be another Jungle Book with Andy Serkis?
Sam: Lord knows. The movie's so nice he watched it twice.
Leo: Is Disney making the second one?
Sam: That's Warner Brothers. The fact that Warner brothers jumped on it and Disney said we have to get on the Jungle Book train... that's what happened. It was the FX team behind the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and they had never done anything with this specific animal tech, and all CGI generated animals that PETA gave an award to, because the fact that there were no animals even close to being hurt.
Leo: The human however, really suffered. He had to go through mud, and it was just terrible. They were brilliant, because they eliminated the uncanny valley problem. The only thing that we have a problem with is human animation, so they made the human real, and everything else in the movie... There's a good YouTube video. I showed this a couple weeks ago on the Stream where you can see the green screen. Mowgli made a muddy valley with green screen everywhere and he has to slog through the mud. Just because you can't do computer simulated mud, it doesn't work I guess. Most of it was CGI and really so well done. The thing I really love, and I was just using the Gear VR, there's a, you can be in King Loui's palace where Mowgli would be and look around while Christopher Walken is talking to you. It's really amazing. A really good example of where immersive film making might have somewhere to go. I guess when you're making a CGI movie, you get the 3D thing for free because you're making a model. So you can look around. This is the... You can see how little real stuff. He shot the whole thing in LA. By the way, that puppet is really realistic. He's talking to a puppet instead of an actual bear.
Sam: There was that terrible show on the WB that was a bad rip off married with children and it had a dustbunny that was voiced by (?) That's what that thing looks like. Also there's a little sock creature...
Leo: Yeah. There’s sock creatures behind them. Mowgli is like seven years old. They had to give him something to look at. It's a good movie. I was making a joke. I'm glad you reviewed it.
Devindra: Disney is in the process of turning all their major animated movies into live action, so this was a cool one to check out.
Leo: What other ones are they going to do?
Devindra: They did Cinderella. Peter Pan is coming. There's a whole bunch. Cinderella I heard wasn't bad. I haven't seen that one. The CG in this one is so good.
Leo: It's stunning. You think it's real, you think you're in the Jungle.
Devindra: Best use of 3D since Avatar.
Leo: It didn't seem like there was much...
Sam: At the 3D screening I saw, everything looked like Paper cut outs. It was all this weird flat sort of thing. I was surprised. I blame fake iMacs.
Leo: That's it.
Sam: A few inches bigger and all of a sudden they call it...
Leo: Fake iMacs is not good. Sam Machkovech is here. He's with Ars Technica. I'm so sorry. It's because I look at the spelling.
Sam: You have to feel the name. You close your eyes and hum a tune to yourself and then Machkovech will come out of your mouth. I swear.
Leo: I used to have an attourney named Machkovech but he didn't spell it the same way. He was a tax attourney. He does ads in San Francisco. You probably heard him. "I'm Stephen Machkovech. If you're going to jail, I can help. Haven't filed taxes in years? I can help." Have you heard those ads? No. That's Lauren Hockenson, a young person. Now in a new demographic era.
Lauren: It was really sad. I had to check a box on the census and shed a tear.
Leo: When you're no longer in the 25 to 54, then you'll be sad. In radio, we have a name for the demographic after 25-54. It's 55 to dead.
Lauren: Early bird special at Denny's?
Leo: You got a deal.
Lauren: Grand slam breakfast for 350, that sounds awesome.
Leo: I joined AARP right away. Also with us, Devindra Hardawar, did I mention you already? I gave you a double plug from Engadget. We'll have more in just a moment. Our show to you today brought to you by WealthFront. When you're young like Lauren, and you don't know you're starting out in life. It's the last thing you want to do. You don't even have a lot of extra money to put money into retirement. Believe me that money that you put now into retirement is worth so much more than the money you're going to put into it in 20 years. It starts growing now, so it's really important to start saving for your future. You probably also want to save for a down payment on a house, you're going to have kids someday, save for college. Long-term savings, it's important. The question is: where do you put it? Do you put it in a saving's account? No. You're going to lose money, they pay so little interest. OK. You're going to invest. Are you going to hire an investment advisor? They charge between 1 and 3% of the money they manage every year. That's how much more you'd have to make just to break even! That's not easy. Let a computer do it. Computers only charge you one quarter of one percent a year. That's nothing. No commissions, no hidden fees, by the way, they do a better job because unlike an advisor who might check your account every few months, Wealthfront is checking your account every minute. Constantly monitoring it, re-balancing. They do something called tax loss harvesting, the idea is to maximize your return and minimize your tax. It's based on modern portfolio theory and what they do with just a few questions, they adjust their investments according to your personal risk tolerance, they keep you diversified, they keep you tax efficient, and you know exactly what they're doing because you can view and track all your accounts in one place. In fact, you can even put your non Wealthfront bank and brokerage accounts into the interface so you'll see everything, how all your money is doing. I want you to go to WealthFront.com and read about it. Go to wealthfront.com/twit so they know where you heard about it. Obviously, you're not going to invest until you read about it. Find out how it all works. You should also take advantage of the free things they'll give you. You can answer their few questions about risk tolerance and time framing and they'll generate a portfolio that's free. They'll also look at your existing portfolio if you want, and you'll find out where you're wasting money on additional fees and services, whether it's fully diversified, how it's risk level is, all that stuff. WealthFront has been growing like crazy. They now manage 3 billion dollars in client assets. They've got the best software, the best people, and it's very affordable. Less than one quarter of one percent. Tell you what, I"ve got a better deal. You can start with as little as 500 dollars, and the first 1500 dollars you put in will be free of charge forever. That's zero percent a year. Wealthfront.com/twit. Great returns, low cost, they're doing it right. It's time, whether you're investing for your first year in the marketplace or your last. This is the time to do it. Wealthfront.com/twit. So we recalled Sam. His picture was deteriorating. It's better now. Sam Machkovech is here.
Lauren: You're getting there. I believe in you.
Leo: That's Lauren Hockenson. Good to have you, from the nothing matters cast. It sounds kind of nihilistic, actually. You're very upbeat and positive about the world.
Lauren: Like I said before we started taping, just like Seinfeld is a show about nothing, I believe Twitter is a social media network about nothing.
Leo: so this is a show about Twitter. Interesting.
Devindra: It sounds like it's about Snapchat, actually.
Lauren: Unavailable, platforms for the kids. SnapChat, Instagram. All of that.
Leo: Did you see Chris Saka who is a big SnapChat investor has made probably more than a billion dollars on his investment? Did I say SnapChat, I meant Twitter. Twitter is making a mistake because they're not paying enough attention to black Twitter. He said that's where all the growth and excitement is African Americans using Twitter, nobody black on the board. The person in charge of diversity at Twitter is a white guy. Which is not very diverse.
Devindra: It's weird, because Twitter doesn't understand the platform at all.
Leo: That's really what he's saying. They have no idea what they're doing.
Lauren: Black Twitter is magic. It really is.
Leo: How do I get to this neighborhood? I don't know.
Lauren: You know how to get there. You draw the portal into the wall with the chalk and sprinkle the dust.
Leo: Twitter is black Twitter. That's where the hashtags happen, where the excitement is.
Lauren: They had a great week this past week because Beyonce released her new visual album and HBO special. It is amazing.
Leo: Took a baseball bat to my brain. Holy cow. We'll talk about that in a bit, well we could talk about it now. She's brilliant at marketing. They released the video, it's a documentary. Released it as the show before game of thrones, not a bad place to have. I cannot see it on Demand now though. I think you had to watch it then.
Sam: It was a one day only for the video version and you had to go to Title exclusively for streaming. I believe it's for sale on iTunes though, isn't that correct?
Leo: Her husband Jay Z owns Title and Title is another streaming service, not a lot to distinguish it except for their exclusives, and because it's owned by somebody in the music business, they do well.
Sam: Their app is garbage. Everybody at ARS technica struggled to maintain the stream across many different devices. Perhaps there's a sweet spot where Title is great.
Leo: Aren't they streaming CD quality?
Sam: They're doing flak. That was one of their big teases. Neil Young music, weirdly.
Lauren: I had to re-download title after the death of Prince and got Lemonade rolled into the...
Leo: Do they have an exclusive on Prince as well?
Lauren: Prince moved his entire catalogue over there. He has some select songs, specifically from hit and run 2 available on Spotify.
Leo: How about Tay tay? Is she over there?
Lauren: She is.
Leo: Do they give artists more money, or is it the relationships that Jay Z has?
Lauren: It's probably a combo of both. The problem is it doesn't matter if you can have a stream of Prince's 1999 if it skips and pauses. That's my problem is I have to look up and question if my Internet is working because for some reason the stream will just stop.
Devindra: It's like the authentic record playing experience. You got to have thsoe skips in there.
Leo: Then Beyonce is brilliant. They only had a 24 hour exclusive before she went to iTunes to sell it. Of course if you're a Beyonce fan, you're going to buy it.
Devindra: 24 hours before Game of Thrones, this is layer upon layer of marketing working together.
Leo: The sad thing is only somebody with her clout in the Industry could do this. It doesn't benefit up and coming artists. It shows a path for once you've made it, but it doesn't really show the future of the music Industry.
Sam: I think the idea of a video album is a very attainable thing. It doesn't cost a lot. Even your Smartphone should have a decent camera on it.
Devindra: No one is going to watch it, that's the thing.
Sam: Why not?
Devindra: There have been lots of indie videos being produced.
Sam: It may push kids who are making music now over the next 5 or six years to really experiment with video albums or even VR albums. Who knows what's to come? For Beyonce as a woman and a person of color saying I'm going to make something top to bottom and control it and I think that really matters. It makes an impression on, between that and the access to technology to make that and record that stuff. That will have an effect down the line. I did look up the amount per play. Google Play pays the most. 73 hundreds of a cent per play title. Rhapsody, Apple Music, Spotify, something called Deizer.
Devindra: Deizer is big.
Lauren: Deizer is big in France.
Leo: Deizer is awesome. It was another one of the CD quality streaming services. And it's French? But owned now by Title? Who bought Deizer? Or is it the other way around? I'm sorry. It's hard to keep track of all this. Deizer is separate. But you said Google play is number one. Who is second? Deizer or Title?
Sam: Google Play and Title are right next to each other. Beats, the chart I would show it to you. 3/10 of a penny per play.
Leo: Maybe they're not charging enough to keep their servers going. Right? If you don't have good quality service.
Lauren: i find that it's unclear to figure out exactly what's going on I don't know if it's a bug in their web app, if its' something with their server.
Leo: But that's the problem. When you have technology companies like Apple and Google that you're competing with who do know how to run servers, who do know how to make software.
Lauren: I will say that the Apple music experience is infuriating on several levels. I have often yelled at my phone because I just wanted to be able to play music that I already own that I already put on my phone. I don't want to log into the Internet to do that.
Devindra: The way they shut that in with the local library is insane. It feels like monopolistic. The first thing that launched when you launched the music app, sign up for Apple music, instead of getting to your tracks.
Leo: Go to Title.com, there's no question who has the exclusive on Lemonade. That is right in your face.
Sam: When we were talking about Apple being a services company, there's a reason why we don't talk about it, and one is that Apple Music launched a plopping something or other, and never really... I can't think of anyone I know who says OH yeah, Apple Music.
Leo: They have a huge advantage if you're using an iPhone? It's on the IPhone, it's there. It's the default. YOu have to download Spotify, iPhone comes with Apple music.
Devindra: YOu have to take an effort to get Spotify.
Leo: don't downplay the tyranny of the default. Despite the fact that anybody including ths panel who uses it and compares it to the competition realizes it's also ran. If it'll continue to grow bit by bit.
Lauren: It's interesting because Apple Music has two things in terms of mind share. One of them is Beats One, if you're a hip cool kid who loves all the hot British clubhouse beats, they're for you. The second one is the other album that dropped, unfortunately with a little less fanfare because Lemonade is Drake's views from the sixth. Apple music has an exclusive on Drake's from the sixth, and it was incredibly well. I thad strong digital download sales.
Leo: He's not on Spotify. I think it's going to be the battle of the exclusives. In console gaming it was the battle of the exclusive games. Is that how we're going to determine a winner in the music streaming music?
Sam: Until Title runs out of money, anyway.
Leo: That's to me the real problem. Ultimately. The record industry decides who survives and who doesn't. They just squeeze. I believe that streaming services will survive will be the ones affiliated with large companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple, because they don't have to make money. They're add-ons for companies that make money in other ways as well. Independents like Deizer and Title and even Spotify are going to struggle. Pandora is struggling. Pandora says they're launching a streaming music service, as if that's going to somehow save them.
Lauren: That was I Heart, no...
Leo: I heart will succeed because they're tied to radio. That's ClearChannel. Disclaimer, I worked for them during the weekend, I do a radio show there. I think they'll survive. The record industry is not going to put them out of business. ultimately, the record industry decides who survives and who doesn't, which is a sad state of affairs. Drake big. Do you think that's going to drive as much traffic?
Lauren: It's done incredibly well in terms of sales. I don't know if they have any initial numbers out. Of course, this is his little tiny triumph. Hotline bling got totally screwed by Billboard charts because they did release it as an official Apple exclusive. He put his video on there. Everybody was streaming it. The problem is Billboard doesn't count streaming plays from Apple music. As a result, he ended up missing out on the week he was supposed to get his first number 1 hit on Billboard. The next week Adele came out with her new album and he got totally owned. Maybe this is the week.
Leo: Poor Drake.
Sam: It should be good fodder for his next record.
Leo: You got to suffer to be an artist, don't you know? Beyonce was suffering. Don't get in the way with her and a Baseball bat. Holy cow. I was watching with my wife and it made me very uncomfortable because it's about Infidelity and about Jay Z stepping out on Beyonce, as a result she burns the entire backlot of MGM to the ground. It's interesting. My wife's looking at me going "mmm." I have a baseball bat. Keep that in mind. I think a lot of husbands were made uncomfortable by Lemonade. No? I don't know why I'm asking you, Lauren.
Lauren: As a woman, confirmed woman, I think the big thing is the fact that Beyonce is a powerful public figure and her husband is powerful and her father was powerful as her former manager.
Leo: She talks a lot about her father in Lemonade.
Lauren: His infidelity was the reason why she separated from him as a manager, so the idea that she can go to them and say I'm going to make a whole record about you and I'm going to talk about it, you can participate if you want, but otherwise I'm cool. Everybody at your streaming music company will know how much of a dog you are.
Leo: It's intensely personal. I have to say it's great. Not sure about the music. It's a great video. I'm not sure about the album.
Sam: The album is fantastic. There's an extended version of the one that Jack White is on.
Leo: I love that song. That makes sense now.
Sam: I found very interesting how the week transpired as Lemonade trickled down as it were and the conversation about the line Becky with the good hair and a lot of people going to there's a person, her name is Becky! over their heads about what is really being talked about. It was really interesting to see the Twitter verse stand up and say you guys are missing the point. There's a lot of cultural conversation that you have missed out on. It lined up with the SNL skit from a while back of white people freaking out because they realized Beyonce was black. It was truly this interesting conversation about standards of beauty and how black women are and aren't attached to them.
Leo; It was very political.
Sam: It was interesting to see the eyes open up as the week went along. I think there's still... It was absolutely because of the limited nature and the streaming exclusivity, on top of that the story of who is Becky? Becky is a concept. Let's talk about, let's have a social media forum to talk about that. That's such a thing about pop music now that would not have happened in the mid 90's when Destiny's Child was having to attach to Y Clev John for anyone to care that they existed.
Leo: You can't put black Twitter in your trend locations.
Lauren: No, but you can search for today in black Twitter.
Leo: #blacktwitter, daily digest of the latest black twitter discussions.
Lauren: blktwitter.news, todayinblacktwitter.com is the other one. What he was at Twitter for a long time was an advocate of diversity on Twitter and he was working in their news department and he was so interested in the conversations that were happening on black Twitter that he created this website that follows memes, news stories, pop music...
Leo: Is this empowering or is it segregating?
Lauren: I think it's empowering.
Sam: There's no gilded gate to access...
Devindra: The only difference is like maybe your feed is not as colorful as it should be. That makes people aware of OK, maybe I should be aware and following...
Leo: It can be more diverse by adding diversity to your own stream.
Lauren: This is a visibility thing. You were like, "I've heard about black Twitter, but how do I get there?" The fact that he has this website than can say hey, here's some things you can follow. Some parts of the conversation you may have seen or missed. That's all visibility. That's really powerful. People are having conversations on Twitter about everything every day. If you had somebody that was like I have today on Dachshund Twitter.com, and it's pictures of Dachshunds. You'd be like yeah. I need this in y life.
Leo: I could use some diversity in my Twitter feed . I think you're right. It's much more interesting.
Devindra: That's the awareness too. When you hear about the stuff, there are people working in your local Industry who you should be following and paying attention to.
Leo: So in a way, this has some valuable... it can increase your sphere, your awareness. I think that's really interesting. Maybe that's one of the real values of Twitter is to be used that way, as opposed to a Filter bubble.
Devindra: You remember the scene in the Matrix where they see the lines of code falling, it's like OK. I know exactly what's going on in the world now. In Twitter is inception, and shocking that we're so along now.
Leo: Maybe they do and they don't know how to capitalize on it.
Devindra: Maybe. but they've done so much to effectively harm that usefulness of Twitter. The Refresh limitations and the way they've handled third party apps, it's astounding. I don't know if it's going to be different under a new old CEO.
Leo: It kind of lends itself to... Facebook can't do that. Facebook you follow your friends and celebrities, you wouldn't say I'd like to get more diversity in my Facebook.
Sam: That's the exact opposite of the Facebook philosophy. Facebook wants for your newsfeed to reflect your values and to amplify because they can monetize you. As we said at the top of the show, they are killing it money wise, so it's making them money to keep our worldview nice and bubbled.
Leo: That's very interesting. Twitter is the anti-bubble and Facebook is... Twitter doesn't monetize you based on your followers and following, or does it?
Lauren: The more you use it. Also, we're saying this with Twitter as it is now, as we've seen with a lot of the trends that Twitter is moving towards in terms of its features are slowly stripping this away, us begrudging media people who are sitting around worried about what's going to happen once we get an algorithmic feed. That's really where it's moving towards. That's that whole philosophical conversation, is this good for Twitter? Which is not entirely linked, but it plays a part in the fact that Twitter has been spending a lot of time trying to make these features to try and get more people on it, and maybe for some reason there's a disconnect between what people envision Twitter is and what Twitter wants to be over time.
Leo I'm glad we had this little conversation, because it's opened my eyes a little bit. And I hope that Twitter—you know, it’s clear Twitter has value. But before the show started I said, “That’s how I found out Prince died.” And what’s interesting is I was looking at GNU Social because I wanted to see alternatives to Twitter and there’s an open source, you know it was based on Status Net GNU Social. It’s just a bunch of geeks. Nothing’s going on.
Devindra: And that’s your closed environment by the way, Leo. That’s where—that’s a bubble.
Leo: It is a bubble for sure. It’s not a racially determined bubble, it’s more like a, I don’t know what—it’s a geekily determined (Laughing).
Devindra: It is also a racially determined bubble.
Leo: Yes, unfortunately it is. But so I was looking at it and I thought, well I want to compare this to Twitter. And I opened up a window on Twitter and I saw Prince had died. And I closed, I immediately closed GNU Social. I haven’t been back. It’s like Twitter is where it’s happening, where stuff happens, right? I think that’s really—
Sam: Well it’s also where the people are is where stuff is going to happen. And that’s going to depend country by country. I mean you go to Japan it’s completely different social networks. So people have not given up on Twitter yet. But Snapchat may very well for a particular audience, that could be a shift that really happens in the next 2 to 3 years in terms of that audience could really gravitate as friends tell friends tell friends and they kind of flocked the way that Snapchat sort of groups together by these friends’ groups and has these sort of specific city wide geo location feeds. But for now Twitter still has a foothold. Twitter is still a way for a broad spectrum of ages and voices to speak out very quickly.
Leo: And to speak to one another. And to communicate with each other which is huge.
Leo: I had for a long time, I kind of had this notion, “Oh the better social networks are the smaller ones because they get so unruly when they get big.” But I have to really rethink that. I think that the real value of Twitter is how unruly it is and how out of control it is and how unfiltered it is. And it would be a shame if they started filtering it. You know? That would be a mistake, the curated feed or the generated feed. Are they doing that now? No. Not yet.
Devindra: No. They’re bringing back older, like they’re doing the Tweets You Missed thing.
Leo: What you missed which is fine with me because that’s people I followed. It’s not bringing in new voices. It’s the people I followed. So it’s just stuff I might have missed. Very interesting. Let’s take a break. Lot’s more to talk about. Devindra Hardaware’s here from Engadget. Lauren Hockenson. Last time you were here you were with some other company.
Lauren: I was with The Next Web.
Leo: Yea, The Next Web. You’ve parted company with them.
Lauren: Hmm mmm.
Lauren: No longer with them.
Leo: Do you want to get, do you want to keep doing that kind of thing? Are you looking for work? Should we help you put out a little ad here?
Lauren: Oh, oh thank you. I’m very flattered but I’ve got something in the works, so.
Leo: Oh, you don’t need a job. Ooh.
Lauren: I’m good.
Leo: She’s good.
Lauren: This is post lemonade America that we’re living in right now.
Leo: I know.
Lauren: A woman can do whatever she wants.
Leo: A woman can do—they keep saying that. Someday it will be true. A woman can do anything she wants.
Lauren: Dang right. Dang right.
Leo: Keep the baseball bat away from her, will you? Also here, Sam Machkovech, Sam Machkovech (laughing).
Sam: Can someone please super cut everything someone says my name.
Sam: Oh, I’m delighted.
Leo: I’m sorry, Sam. I love you though. I love you with Ars Technica. What’s your beat at Ars Technica?
Sam: They call me a culture reporter which means I write about yogurt. No, when art and technology collide, so video games, VR, gadgets, art exhibits with weird stuff.
Leo: Nice. That’s a good beat. That’s an awesome beat.
Sam: Yea I’m going to go see Captain America on Monday so I’m pretty stoked.
Leo: What about that Chobani, huh?
Leo: Chobani the yogurt. The guy gave stock to the entire company. Like made millionaires out of Chobani. Gave away 10% of his company to his—don’t even think. That is not happening.
Devindra: You brought it up, Leo.
Sam: Yea, Leo.
Leo: That’s yogurt. Don’t even. Don’t. No. I’m giving you all yogurt, that’s right. You get yogurt already. Free yogurt. It’s in the fridge.
Sam: You get yogurt. You get yogurt. But there’s yogurt there for you too.
Leo: Everybody who wants yogurt can have yogurt.
Sam: I don’t want yogurt from anyone. That’s sounds bad.
Leo: Oh (laughing). What was the show there was a wedding and they were going to have doves, release doves and they said everybody should look under their seat because we’ve put doves in an envelope—or it was butterflies. It was butterflies in an envelope to release. And then they realized, oh we didn’t put them under the seats, we put them on the chairs. And everybody squished their butterfly (laughing). Am I dreaming? Did that actually happen?
Lauren: That’s an urban legend.
Leo: I think it was a sitcom.
Sam: Leo, you’re having an acid flashback.
Leo: Could be.
Sam: What else have you got?
Leo: Come on. It happened. It happened. Really.
Sam: That episode of Mash where everyone died.
Leo: Yea. They all died. Our show today brought to you by FreshBooks, ladies and gentlemen. If you are a freelancer or you do your own invoices, you know that that’s not the reason you got in business. I didn’t get in business to do my books. No. Unless your business is accounting. And then you’re doing somebody else’s books. I bet you even people who have accounting businesses hate doing invoices. No one likes doing invoices. But I had found out something about invoices when I was doing it. If you don’t send them out, you do not get paid. This is not a good situation. So let’s you know, let’s really face it. If you’re focused on what you’re doing, on what you love, and I was, you also have to do the bills at the end of the month. You’ve got to send them out. And that’s when FreshBooks came along. I was so happy. This was back in 2004 when I was going to Toronto every week, every month for a week to do shows. I kept putting of invoicing them. Which meant I didn’t get reimbursed for my expenses. I didn’t get paid. Well it had to be in Canadian dollars. I had to do the conversion. It was just a pain. Then I found FreshBooks and I love it. Saved my life. It made it easy to send invoices, professional looking, good invoices that actually get you paid faster because on every email invoice, there’s a button that says,
Here, pay Leo right now.” And you know what? It turns out your clients don’t like paying the bills any more than you like sending them out. So make it easy for them. You get paid on average 5 days faster. That makes a big difference. They also have some new features that they didn’t have. I would have loved this. First is project deposits. You can invoice for a payment up front while you’re kicking off a project. That way it doesn’t come out of your pocket and you have to wait for reimbursement. You get lots of information. The reports are great. Your accountant will love that when tax time comes along. And you can even see whether or not an accountant has even looked at the invoice you emailed them. And if they haven’t paid, they handle this automatically with these nice little polite reminders that get less polite over time. They make sure you get paid. It’s just a part of what FreshBooks can do. If you work in people’s homes you can use the FreshBooks app on your iPhone and present them with an estimate, present them with the invoice. They even have an EMV chip card enabled reader that you pop in there and you get paid before you leave. Stuff like that is awesome. FreshBooks. Find out about it by getting it free for the next 30 days at FreshBooks.com/twit. FreshBooks.com/twit. Do not get into the accounting business unless you love it. And even if you do you’re going to love them doing the invoices and the reporting and all that. FreshBooks.com/twit. Try it free for 30 days and don’t forget to say, “I heard about it on TWiT,” when they ask you. One thing on Twitter, Michael O’Donnell’s posting great pictures on Twitter. Thank you, Michael. Michael’s become the Silicon Valley photographer, hasn’t he? He is everywhere.
Devindra: Hey Michael.
Leo Devindra says hi. Great. I love this. What are you doing, Photoshop while you’re shooting? How are you doing that?
Michael O’Donnell: Straight on the camera.
Leo: You do that on the camera? Wow he’s got a magic camera. Or else Lauren Hockenson has magic fingers.
Devindra: Michael also has the best Twitter account so follow him on Twitter.
Leo: Yea, follow him on Twitter. That’s awesome.
Devindra: Just @photo.
Leo: What is it?
Devindra: Just @photo, yea.
Leo: How’d you get that?
Devindra: It’s insane.
Michael: I got it before they launched.
Leo: You got it before they launched in 2006? 2006 you got it. Wow. Nice. Apple Watch. One year in. What is our decision? You actually are quoted Devindra in this Engadget roundup. They went to all the editors, Matt and Ed and Chris.
Devindra: Well those of us who have the Apple Watch basically. Not everyone.
Leo: Not everybody. I agree, by the way, I agree totally with your take on it, Devindra. You said, “The best thing I can say about the Apple Watch is I still wear it but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.” But it’s one of those things that you get something—and I’ve always said this. I don’t feel like it’s changed the world. But I see enough people still wearing them, not me, but enough people. You say “I still can’t recommend the Apple Watch. It’s a device for a particular lifestyle of digital addiction. By its very nature and price it’s not just for everyone.” But it’s not an outright failure. They’ve sold a ton of them.
Devindra: They’ve sold a bunch. I think the fact that they’ve sold more than the iPhone did in its first year, that’s interesting. Especially because the Apple Watch, this is a device for a limited market, right? It’s only for people who have iPhone.
Leo: I agree.
Devindra: So you know, that’s the facts—
Leo: And even a subset of that market. It’s not everybody who has an iPhone would love an Apple Watch.
Devindra: Yea. Exactly. So like for a new device that is targeted at such a subset of users to sell that much? I don’t think it’s a failure but I do think like everyone is right to complain that it’s not as useful as it could be because there are a lot of things they could do to make the next version better. I just really like it. It’s my lifeline during the workday because it’s great. Yea, I’m on the subway, I can see updates. I can see a lot of things without pulling my phone out of my pocket. But yea. I’m a very weird edge case for computer usage.
Leo: Apple does not reveal sales but we figured, people have figured out with clever, like Slice, you know actual deliveries and stuff, that they’ve sold around 12 million. But what’s really interesting is they have more than half of the wearables market share. Now that’s gone down. They finished Q1 according to Strategy Analytics with a 52.4% market share down from 63% last quarter.
Sam: Well it’s not surprising that they can get up on the wearable market share when the wearable share as Devindra just sort of said is sort of an edge case. It hasn’t been this leading thing where people have been just going out in droves to get smart watches.
Leo: I see a lot of FitBits though, right?
Sam: Absolutely. FitBits are the perfect price spot. You know if Apple really wanted to—it’s kind of funny that Microsoft thought they might have a good idea by releasing their own fitness band but they completely balled it on the fact that it’s the price, stupid. They could have gotten that down to a hundred dollars and have it really limited and then have some step ups. I mean gosh, this is the company that made 5 different versions of the Xbox. You’d think they could have done the same thing with the band. But they—
Devindra: It’s funny. They had the same issue with the band as they did with the phone, right? It was several years too late and it was too expensive and nobody needed that from Microsoft at that point.
Sam: Even though it’s a good product, if you just don’t have an entryway to it, you’re not going to beat Fitbit. You’re not going to beat that $99 dollar thing that combines your watch and some very basic tracking and then hooks you in wanting to get, well oh, I’m going to need the heartrate monitor. I’ll go ahead and get the $140 dollar one next year and all that sort of thing, so.
Leo: I actually wear a Fitbit Blaze and I love it. That’s $200 bucks though. That’s getting into—
Sam: But was that your first Fitbit?
Leo: No, far from it. I got the first—
Leo: Yea, it’s like my 8th Fitbit.
Sam: That’s how that works.
Leo: Yea, yea.
Sam: They get you in like oh, goodness, that heartrate monitor is going to make my sleep tracking that much more intense and specific and blah, blah, blah.
Leo: Well, a 5 day battery life. And because they have such good battery life, the Blaze monitors my heartrate all the time, not just when I say monitor it. So I know what my resting heartrate was which the Apple Watch was never able to tell me. It gives me some notifications.
Sam: Have you ever considered putting biometric feedback on the show? Have you ever seen this where people on YouTube will do tasks and then have the heartrate at the bottom?
Leo: Oh, dude, we did that 10 years ago. I wore a special shirt that measured my EKG while I was doing The Screen Savers in 2002.
Sam: Leo, I’d like to think you always wear a special shirt.
Leo: I have a specially sensor-ed shirt that contacts my physician anytime I go into fibrillation. No, no, but yea. Actually in some ways it’s really interesting. This whole quantified self- movement got so much attention. And it really does so little. It really at best you know, a pedometer plus heartrate monitor. Which we’ve had for decades.
Devindra: And the heartrate monitor isn’t even super necessary. A lot of people just want the step counting and that’s pretty much it. There might be some step tracking.
Leo: Right. For a 5 buck device you put on your belt buckle you can have the step tracking. I don’t know what it is about this category. It’s maybe VR is going to be kind of like this too which it had immense promise and everybody got excited about it but it just doesn’t make any progress.
Lauren: I think though that VR is coming at it from a different angle, though. I mean if you think about it, this sounds very weird but I like to think of the quantified self-movement a little bit like Pinterest which has not only grabbed early adopters but it’s grabbed like this segment of like woman, like 30s in the Midwest who just love tracking sleep or they’re using it as their step counter to get through the day. Like my mom doesn’t care about VR but she loves talking about her Fitbit and she loves plugging it in and looking at her data and feeling fancy about herself. And I think that that’s really important. You know it’s really attracted this segment of people that normally don’t hop on to tech trends in quite the same way. And I think that that’s the really important and signifying pieces of the Fitbit. That said, I don’t own a Fitbit and I received an Apple Watch as a very thoughtful gift.
Leo: Do you wear it? I don’t see it.
Lauren: I’m not wearing it today.
Leo: But you do wear it?
Lauren: Yea, yea, I try to wear it usually on weekdays when I know that my wrist isn’t going to be really sweaty which it’s not good.
Sam: What I’m going to say about the quantified self-movement is that having the phone changes everything. We as super geeks are very likely to get some sort of crazy body tracking device and then run to our computers, install all the drivers, get all the software, deal with all the quirks of how the crappy interface shows everything. With a phone, boom, you’ve just got a little bit of Bluetooth and that’s kind of the secret for getting that penetration which is sort of what I think Apple thought would happen with the watch. That you have this life assistant device that you’re always using. The watch is going to play so nicely with that. When the price comes down, when they can get the watch 2C or whatever, put the letter C in there and make it a cheaper one, and make it really limited but still sort of hook in and look cute, I think that’s going to be the beginning. Because one you really factor in, oh, I have this assistant sort of thing that really plays well with the thing I could not live without then that’s what starts driving. So it’s not that—the Apple Watch certainly isn’t a failure. And it has room to grow. And I think it was, Apple was in a really interesting position when they launched it which is that hey, remember our first iPod? Got way better. Hey, remember our first iPhone? Got way better. And that meant that people that bought into it weren’t going to go, “Oh gosh, I need to wait.” They go, “You know what? I’m ready. I’m ready for that 1st Apple thing. It’s not going to be garbage. The next one will be better.” And that’s—you know Ars Technica had its own wish list. We want some speed. We want some better wireless connectivity to like 5G networks. There’s a wish list there but it’s still—the promise is there. The look is pretty good. The size not too huge. You know just getting that price down and sweeten those features up and that next addition may really turn things around at the very least as a cool looking Fitbit like thing that’s cheap if not another Apple like status symbol.
Leo: How badly is it hurt by the fact that you have to have an iPhone? Does that help or hurt?
Sam: That hurts.
Devindra: Yea. It’s super limited. And it’s like, it’s funny too because it sounds like—
Leo: The iPod didn’t take off until you could run it on Windows.
Sam: Oh, absolutely.
Devindra: Yea, yea. But Mac users were a huge minority back then, too. Like it was a very different computing environment back in those days, so.
Leo: Apple’s still not dominant in—well, I guess the phone is.
Sam: The phone’s doing way better than the rest of them.
Leo: Ok, yea, yea, yea.
Devindra: What’s interesting to me too, it’s like I think the biggest upgrade for me wouldn’t be a hardware upgrade or anything. Just like make Siri work. Make Siri work better. Siri’s this thing Apple’s been selling us for years and it’s still has trouble understanding me.
Leo: It’s actually getting worse.
Devindra: and hearing me. And yea, it’s getting worse.
Leo: I believe it’s getting worse (laughing).
Devindra: And I feel like for a watch, just like nice voice commands if I hold my wrist up and I tell it something, if it happened instantly, that would be a really fantastic way to sell the Apple Watch. And you wouldn’t even need new hardware for that really. You’d just make Siri work better.
Leo: I think Apple’s challenged by it kind of painted itself into a corner by saying, “We’re going to have a closed ecosystem and we’re going to respect your privacy. We’re not going to collect data.” And by doing all this they really limited their ability to make that watch be everything it could be. You know Siri would be better if they collected more data about you. The watch would be better if it worked with more things.
Devindra: I don’t know about that. I mean if Amazon’s Alexa has better voice recognition than everything, and yea they are collecting all sorts of data about you but it’s—
Leo: Well part of the reason the Echo works so well is when I say “I want to buy batteries” it knows what batteries I bought last time and says, “Fine, I’ll order those for you.” That is—
Devindra: Well it’s empowered so it’s always listening.
Leo: And it’s always listening. It’s smarter.
Devindra: Siri’s not the same.
Leo: Siri’s really though, I have to say, of the 3, I guess I’ll include Cortana even, so of the 4, the least intelligent.
Devindra: Yea. It got the most buzz but I think it’s the least functional and the least accurate too in terms of when I need it.
Leo: Even the guys at Siri are doing their own thing now. They’ve created a new voice recognition technology. I don’t know if it’s going to be on the Apple or is it going to be cross platform.
Devindra: I don’t know. I’m always watching Nuance and seeing what they do here because they’ve been doing the Dragon stuff forever but Nuance’s technology is also powered. It was partially there for Android. It was partially there for the iPhone early on so they’re kind of like the underlying technology people that I pay attention to just to see what could happen in the future.
Sam: I’m just looking right now. There was The New York Times had a piece in January as word was buzzing about Alexa especially out of Amazon’s big Super Bowl ad. Their report card pointed to a Google lady, which is what I like to call him or her, doing the best, 3.1 out of 4. I guess they like to go with a GPA rating for human comparison. Siri close behind at 2.9. They have a longer thing that breaks down sort of—
Leo: And this is based on they gave them things to do and yea.
Sam: Yea they just asked them all sort of the same sort of questions. Alexa tanked. I mean that was only in January though. I can’t even imagine what 4 months and different company acquisitions could do for each of these products. That’s just going to continue to be ramping up for a while.
Leo: Maybe the difference has more to do with venue and expectations than actual capabilities. Because I would rank the Echo much, much higher but probably you’re right in kind of an objective environment it doesn’t do as much as Siri does. But because it’s in my house and I’m talking to it and in certain constrained things it does very well. It feels like it’s more successful than Siri. Even though it may not be as truthfully as smart as Siri.
Sam: Well Alexa knows that you’re asking very specific home use things.
Leo: It’s easier for it to be smart.
Sam: Machine processing of language is all about trying to guess what the situation is that it needs to be listening for. So something like Alexa could limit its kind of expected vocabulary in a very particular way especially if it’s latched into your Amazon account and it’s mining all of that data compared to Siri necessarily being there for your calendar and for your music and for making a Steve Jobs joke and asking the meaning of life and all that sort of stuff. So I do find, I would love to see just someone spend an entire year using that much vocabulary and seeing what runs up. Because any sort of test, even this New York Times thing looks pretty, relatively anecdotally. You know it’s like 16 tasks were tested.
Lauren: I think it’s also that the problem with the difference between Alexa and Siri is that I find that Siri is also more like palpably consumptive. You know when you have an Echo plugged in all the time in your house you don’t necessarily think about the battery. But for me when I’m on my phone and when I know that I’m going to be using it for a really long time I might not be able to charge it, I put that sucker into low power mode and then Siri don’t do nothing. She’s basically effectively done at that point because she’s no longer actively listening to me. I would have to think to ask her a question. There’s nothing there that might be possibly be like using from a hands-free perspective because I’m so concerned that, not specifically Siri, but the other things that are tied to that high power or the screen refresh, whatever you want to call the active background refresh, that whole kit and caboodle that gets basically cut off during low power mode. Like I don’t want that on my phone all the time. And so as a result I think that I purposefully handicap my own AI capabilities where I believe if I had an Echo I wouldn’t think about it that way at all.
Sam: Of course none of us are talking about the fact that we’re giving ourselves over to the great evil thing that is letting these devices listen to us and trust them.
Leo: Ah, the hell with it. If anybody wants to listen to me they can listen all they want. I’ve got nothing.
Devindra: You’ve got to accept it and realize that you’ll always be monitored.
Leo: Well I just, yea. First of all there’s not much you can do about it. If you don’t want to be monitored, get rid of your phone first and foremost.
Devindra: I mean it is worth bringing up these issues. I really love the EFF and everything they talk about when it comes to consumer rights because yea, when these things happen, like when if we just sit by and accept everything that gets shoved at us, I feel like the world would be a worse place. So it’s worth paying attention.
Leo: Pay attention. I agree. But what I worry about is if you get over zealous about this we’re going to lose a lot of really cool technology like stuff that, like Hal 9000 just because someone’s getting worried about getting locked out of the pod bay door, I think we need talking computers.
Sam: You did not convince me with this argument.
Sam: At all. You know, it might control your life, but boy, the tech is kind of cool.
Leo: I just want to play chess with it.
Devindra: Yea. Amazon’s big thing by the way is Alexa is only for in the US and it’s only focused on English.
Leo: That’s easy to do, right? It’s easy to be better.
Devindra: Right. Much easier than Siri and Google Now and everything else.
Leo: Yea. I feel like the next big thing isn’t virtual reality, augmented reality, it’s being able to have a natural language conversation with our technology.
Devindra: For sure.
Leo: But that’s very far off. I don’t feel—
Sam: Microsoft has come out and said that very specifically. They’re very big on—in spite of the fact that Cortana’s really low on the recognition level as I found in my Windows use, it’s awful. But you know they really talk as if they are going to somehow—my guess is they want to acquire as many companies as possible just so they can sound good. Because they want, I think HoloLens has really unlocked something for Microsoft. Because it’s a working product, because it’s the promise of connect actually fulfilled in terms of scanning a room and making hand gestures a real thing. And they know voice is going to solve that puzzle for the eventual HoloLens consumer version, the kind of thing where you could actually wear a not giant thing, see virtual stuff in your field of view, you’re going to need speech for that to really work for the average consumer. So I do think in the next year and a half, two years of all of these big companies battling for voice, Leo, I think you’re dead on. Voice is going to be this unifying thing and it’s going to need to work across all the different languages. And maybe Microsoft will be last place in English but first place in all the other countries. Maybe that will be fine. We’ll have to see.
Devindra: Voice and VR too. I don’t think VR, we should count that out at all. And I don’t think they’re in direct competition. But the voice control will be the fundamentally useful thing to everyone, right? It will be on your phone, your desktop or whatever. I will change, like we’ll be using computers like they do in the movie Her, which I think is my favorite example in terms of that sort of futuristic, hands free, no keyboards, just do what I’m telling you, computer. That’s all I want.
Leo: I don’t care if later on she goes off with the other AI to start a new civilization. That’s fine. I just want some time with Her.
Devindra: Yea, just a little time.
Leo: That’s all I ask.
Sam: Just take her out, a little picnic. Come on.
Leo: I think it’s so much harder than we think and it’s probably not going to happen in my lifetime which is sad.
Devindra: Honestly like Cortana, as I’m using Windows and Windows 10, I think Cortana is actually great as an augmented thing. I can just ask it what the weather is or I can ask it while I’m typing an email or something I can say you know, “Cortana, launch this app.” And then that will happen without me having to like go down to the start menu and find everything. So I think that sort of like assistive ability is there. But most people don’t use Cortana that way and it’s there. It works. It works pretty well it’s just not like something everyone’s aware of or actually uses.
Leo: By the way, that’s kind of what the Siri guys are trying to do with Viv. Or is it ViV? The Global Brain. Right there, maybe they want to tone that down a little bit. Viv radically—
Sam: That looks like something out of the comedy Silicon Valley.
Leo: Yea, it does.
Sam: That really looks like it’s about to transition into a Hooli ad.
Leo: Well it sounds like Skynet. I’m not sure we really want to go there. But Viv radically simplifies the world by providing an intelligent interface to everything. But nobody’s used this yet, right? This is all—they’ve been doing this, working on this for a long time.
Devindra: I haven’t seen anything from this end.
Devindra: That’s weird.
Leo: I think it’s hard to do. I think it’s actually much harder than anyone wants to admit.
Devindra: Oh, for sure.
Lauren: Well look at chat bots. They’re text based only and they’re awful.
Leo: Oh, they’re annoying. They’re horrible.
Lauren: They’re really bad.
Leo: Has anybody found a chat bot they like? I talked last week about Poncho. I couldn’t—you get to a point where you’re fighting with him. Like cancel, stop, go away, don’t bother me. I finally had to block him. I mean this is not a good way to interface with a computer, is you’re so annoyed by them that you actually have to block them like you would a stalker.
Lauren: Poncho the Weather Cat texts me at 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM because I’ve used Poncho for a while. But that’s like 8 texts to my phone, SMS and it’s not a big deal.
Leo: Yes but he says stupid things like, “50% of Wired Magazine users love 50 degree weather. That’s why it’s going to be a nice day for Wired.” He says stuff like that, right? Does he say stuff like that to you? Or just me?
Devindra: He’s always done that though.
Lauren: Yea, I mean Poncho’s all about bad jokes. And again it’s one of those things where I think for me like a passive—that’s why I don’t use chat bots because for me a passive SMS experience in Poncho or for example, Digit which is another app that I use that texts me my checking balance every day. I can look at it and I don’t feel the need to respond. I can just glance at it and I think that the point is I’m not trying to have a conversation. And I think the issue with chat bots is when you are trying to have a conversation with them, whether it’s through Skype or through Facebook’s M or what have you, you sort of start to bump up against those very real borders of natural language, how you’re supposed to get an idea across and that’s not the point, right? You want to be able to just fluently speak to an artificial intelligence and them understand what you’re saying and then do it.
Leo: iBooker in our chatroom says “We’re at the Clippy stage of chat bots.”
Sam: Oh, God.
Leo: I mean we’re still in the infancy. Actually Clippy never got smarter. Clippy just—no.
Devindra: No, and I mean chat bots have been around for decades too. It’s only now that we’re using them more.
Leo: Clippy’s a chat bot really, right? Hi, I noticed you’re writing a letter. Can I help? No. That’s a chat bot. It’s the same thing. So really they’re flogging stuff that Microsoft abandoned years ago.
Sam: Until phone services when I call to the airline work the way I want them to I’m not going to trust a chat but. Because if giant airline conglomerations can’t understand anything and I just keep on smashing zero. And that’s how I feel about bots as well. Smashing zero.
Leo: Smashing zero, please. All right we’re going to take a break. We will talk about government surveillance. There’s some bad news on that front. And some good news. There’s a little bit of both. Happy and sad. Great panel today. Thank you all for being here. Devindra Hardawar from Engadget. Sam Machkovech from Ars Technica (laughing). Have I gotten close once?
Sam: No. No. I want the other panelists to say my name when you need it to happen. Devindra and Lauren who I am so happy to be on this panel with, I know that they have just memorized my last name. I’m just kidding. I’m not going to do that to you guys.
Lauren: Ok, wait. Hold on. I think if I hum it (humming). Machkovech.
Sam: No Machkovech. But you were closest because you felt it in your soul.
Lauren: Yea this is like pin the tail on the donkey. I’ll get it though.
Sam: We’ll get it.
Leo: Thank you. And Lauren Hockenson. I can say her name any way. Great to have all three of you. Our show today brought to you by our biggest competitor. And they keep buying ads. Audible.com. You know, when I first started doing ads people were saying, “You shouldn’t do ads for Audible.com. I haven’t listened to a podcast since I subscribed.” I don’t care. You know what? I love Audible. I’ve been an Audible listener since the year 2000 because I had a horrendous commute. Spent 2 to 4 hours a day in the car and Audible kept me out of road rage. It will do the same for you. And by the way, and this is, I think back, I got back into music because of Napster. I got back into books because of Audible. Because it made it easy for me to read again. It turns out I had hours every day where I could read. And I just wasn’t able to hold a book. So Audible, those times when you want to read a book but you can’t hold a book like at the gym, in the car, doing the dishes, walking the dog. There’s plenty of time in your day where you could be listening. And it is so enjoyable. It’s really great for those times where you would be otherwise bored out of your skull. Fantastic. 180,000 titles in every category. You can read Phil Knight’s autobiography, Shoe Dog. He’s the creator of Nike of course. I mean I love reading biographies and autobiographies and I’ve read quite a few of them. Steve Case’s new book if you’re interested in his story, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future. One of the founders of AOL. Actually the founder of AOL. We’re going to be interviewing Dan Lyons, the real Steve—the fake Steve Jobs, not the real Steve. The fake Steve Jobs about his book working at HubSpot called Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble. We’re going to interview him in a couple of weeks, right? Not next, not Monday but a week from Monday I think. The 9th. So you might want to listen. Dan has such a great New England accent too. I just love it.
Devindra: He writes for Silicon Valley too so—
Leo: I know. Like he’s I think—let’s see if we can hear him. Can you hear him?
Dan Lyons: Penny makes some calls. Finally she tells me that Cranium is not in the office today.
Leo: That does not sound like Dan.
Dan: I turned the calendar on my phone.
Leo: He has so much more of a Massachusetts accent than that. They must have said, “Dan, can you drop the accent?” Oh man. Yea, he’s very funny. His stuff is great. Anyway, here’s the deal. I’m going to get you 2, not 1, but 2 books for free if you go to Audible.com/twit and the number 2. Alien the original—oh, wait a minute. What’s this? An audio drama called Alien: Out of the Shadows with Rutger Hauer. What? Matthew Lewis, Corey Johnson. So it’s a dramatization—we’ve got to listen to a little bit of this.
Male 1 from book: Now we have an extra crew member but there is another problem. The distress signal.
Male 2 from book: What about it?
Male 1 from book: Well the computer’s been saying the signal is transmitting but I don’t think it’s getting far.
Leo: Oh, I’m listening to this. So this is the other thing Audible does. They do dramatizations.
Lauren: Where in the Alien timeline is this? This is before—this is after the first?
Leo: As a child—let’s see here. As a child, Chris Hooper dreamed of monsters. But in deep space, he found only darkness and isolation. Then, on planet LV178, he and his fellow miners—this must be the very beginning right? As a child, Chris Hooper dreamed of monsters. But in deep space, he found only darkness and isolation. Then, on planet LV178, he and his fellow miners discovered a storm-scoured, sand-blasted hell - and trimonite, the hardest material known to man. When a shuttle crashes into the mining ship Marion, the miners learn that there was more than trimonite. This kind of almost sounds like—
Lauren: But Ripley’s in it. And it’s already said that she’s encountered the Aliens. So this must be between Alien and Aliens.
Leo: Ok. Ripley’s in it. Oh, yea, survivor of the only previous alien encounter. So it is. It’s between Alien and Aliens.
Lauren: Between Alien and Aliens.
Leo: So it’s Alien, Alien Out of the Shadows. Nice. Audible does some great stuff. So here’s the deal. Go to Audible.com/twit the number 2. You’re going to sign up for the Platinum Account. That’s a subscription to two books a month. But here’s the deal. You don’t have to pay for it. You’re first month’s free. You’ll also get the daily digest of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Now you can cancel anytime in that first 30 days and pay nothing. But you will keep the 2 books that you pick. So pick 2 books that you really, really want to hear. And this is a great way to find out if Audible is right for you. I know, maybe not everybody wants to listen to books. I am a huge Audible fan. By the way, they also have the great courses. I’m listening to college courses on every possible subject from physics to history. Look at this. 1066: The Year That Changed Everything. I love medieval history and listen to a lot of that. This is early dark ages. Anyway, it’s hard to pick, but do. Pick 2. You get them free. Audible.com/twit and the number 2. I might get that Alien book. I’ve got 2 credits so that sounds awesome. Couple of—so there’s good news and bad news. Should I—which do you want? Good news, Lauren, or bad news? What do you want to start with?
Lauren: Hit me with the bad news first.
Leo: Bad news. Rule 41. Remember the Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago said it’s ok for a judge to issue a warrant even if the warrant isn’t known to be in that district. So here’s the issue that the law enforcement has come to Congress with and The Supreme Court. We’ve got a problem. There’s people using TOR and other technologies to hide where they’re located. But we still want to listen in. So the amendment to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. This would change law enforcements ability to engage in hacking and surveillance. It’s out of Congress. Or it’s actually out of committee. Unless Congress specifically changes the rules and they have to December 1st to do so, any judge in the United States in any jurisdiction can be asked for a warrant to remotely access, search, seize and copy data if the district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means. In other words, use TOR, use a VPN, law enforcement can go to the most backwards technology hating judge in the country. They can find, and I bet you there is one judge. They already know who it is, who’s the guy they’re going to go to. It’s like the judge in Tyler, Texas who gets all the patent lawsuits because he’s known—
Sam: I was going to say. I thought you were going to take us to Texas with that one.
Leo: Could be. I bet you there’s a judge somewhere that says, “You know, I just hate computers.” No, he doesn’t talk like that. “I just hate computers. They’re horrible stuff.”
Sam: “You just take those computers with their blips and their blops.”
Leo: He’s from Maine. He’s from Maine. “I hate computers.” I don’t know where he’s from but he’s somewhere or she’s somewhere and she hates it. By the way this is not just for American citizens. You may say, “Oh well, I don’t have to worry about it because I’m not in the United States.” No. Any computer user in the world. If you’re using location protection technology, maybe you’re even unwillingly part of a bot net, you also are affected by this. And this isn’t, according to the EFF, and I am quoting the EFF here, not a procedural update, it significantly expands the hacking capabilities of the US Government and there has been no discussion or public debate by elected officials. This is something the intelligence community wants and has gotten. And there’s no legislation involved. So something you should be aware of and one of the things I really like about the EFF is you go to EFF.org/action and get involved. Write to you congress person and say, “You know what? This is not ok.”
Sam: And right not it’s only Senator Ron Wyden out of Oregon who’s actually spoken out against this.
Leo: You’ve got to love Ron Wyden. He is a smart—
Sam: So, he you know—write to your congress person as well. Gosh, I couldn’t even imagine. Imagine if someone got hit with ransomware and had all their stuff encrypted, didn’t pay the Bitcoin fee as a result and then because of that somehow was indicted because of having their files encrypted without their desire or knowledge. Wouldn’t that be the same? I see this happening in my American and it terrifies me.
Leo: I routinely use VPNs, PGP and Tor and I encourage others to do so. Not because I’m trying to hide my activities, but because I think we, it’s our right to use these technologies and if more people use them it will be less of a waving a red flag in front of a bull to use it. But now, everybody has to be aware that if you are using these technologies you are not only waving a red flag in front of the bull but you’re giving them power to go after you.
Lauren: Yea there was a companion article about this written by William Turton of Gizmodo, their little, young security and privacy reporter.
Leo: If you’re calling him young he must be 12.
Lauren: He’s 18.
Leo: Oh my God.
Lauren: He’s 18. Yea. No, I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding when I say that.
Lauren: But he got a response from the Department of Justice spokesperson and Peter Carr told him, “Criminals now have ready access to sophisticated anonymizing technologies to conceal their identity while they engage in crime over the internet and the use of remote searches is often the only mechanism available to law enforcement to identify and apprehend them.” But as Turton points out, actually later in this article, he’s like, “Well, you know, if you’re going to go through all this stuff, maybe you guys should be looking at your warrant process and how you guys are choosing whether or not you are going to hack someone because it could be in violation of the 4th amendment very easily due to it could be unlawful search and seizure.”
Leo: It opens the door to phishing expeditions too. Well, we don’t know who this is so can we just look at everything and we’ll find them? But fortunately, here’s the—ok, so that was the bad news. Here’s the good news. We’ve got the FISA Court and the FISC Court. They are given oversight. They are paying attention. They are making sure that law enforcement doesn’t overstep its bounds. Because the Patriot Act made this possible. These are secret courts where law enforcement has to get the approval of a judge before doing any of this. And here’s the good news. 1,457 requests made last year by the NSA and the FBI, do you know how many were turned down by the secret FISA courts?
Lauren: How many?
Leo: Zero. Last year, 1379 requests made. Do you know how many were turned down by FISC courts? Zero. They don’t say no. They say yes.
Sam: I’m going to file one right now just to see how it goes, guys.
Sam: I’m going to look into all of your bacon.
Leo: They approved every single—now let’s be fair. In 80 cases in those 1,457, they did say, “Oh, take this back. You’ve got to fix this and make it better.” And they did, and they approved it. 19 in 2014. How about this one? The FBI sent out 48,642 national security letters last year. Those are the letters where, you know they either send it to Facebook or Google or Apple and say, “Give us this information about this user. And, oh, by the way, not only can you not tell the user, you can’t tell anybody you got this.” They sent the letter to Blockbuster saying, “What movies did Leo rent?” They sent a letter to Whole Foods saying, “Does anybody you know eat a lot of hummus?” We don’t know because we can’t tell. Because they can’t tell.
Lauren: You’re confusing me. I thought you said this was good news.
Leo: I was joking. I was being funny.
Leo: Apple did this 2 years ago. They put what they call a warrant canary in their transparency report that said, “To date we’ve not received any of these NSL letters.” And by the way, Apple’s warrant canary disappeared almost instantly. So the idea is if they stop putting that in transparency report, well obviously they have, that’s their way of saying without saying that they have. And Reddit, you’re right. A couple of weeks ago they also had a warrant canary in their transparency report. That disappeared. So yea, it’s happening everywhere. I mean look, I’m not in favor of terrorism. And I know there’s criminals out there and we’ve got to catch them. I guess my position is, and I don’t think I’m wrong on this and there’s been a lot of evidence this is the case, law enforcement has better tools than ever before to surveil us. Really the pendulum has swung away from privacy. And so you should be able to protect yourself to whatever degree you can because they’ve got the Echo. They’ve got your phone. They’ve got all sorts of ways to keep an eye on you. They have more—what did they do before there were smartphones? They still caught crooks, right? Now they have even better ways. And we don’t have very many tools and we should be allowed to—
Sam: No, that’s disconcerting that zero out of that many requests.
Sam: There has to be, that has to be a wakeup call to law enforcement agencies to just apply even the tiniest bit of scrutiny. Shoot down 5 of them. That would just make us all feel a little better.
Leo: Just pretend.
Leo: Pretend you care.
Sam: Go through the motions. Please.
Leo: Pretend you care. Ok, there’s one more bad story then I’ll get to the good news. There’s one good news. I should have said I’ve got three bad newses and one good news. Here’s one more bad news. Fingerprints. Now we’ve said for a long time that the protection against self-incrimination, the 5th amendment in the Bill of Rights, or whatever it is. I don’t even know. 5th amendment to the Constitution says you have a right against self-incrimination. As a result you cannot be compelled to give up a password. I can’t torture you. Law enforcement can’t beat you until you give us your password. But for years it’s been held that law enforcement does, that giving a fingerprint for instance is not self-incrimination. DNA evidence is not, like they can take a hair and do DNA evidence without your permission. Now the real question is, how about a fingerprint. Is a fingerprint like your password or is a fingerprint like your thumb, like giving a fingerprint. A fingerprint on unlocking a phone. Right now there’s a case in Glendale, California. Authorities have a search warrant to compel the girlfriend of an alleged Armenian gang member to press her finger against an iPhone that has been seized from the Glendale home. The phone is protected by Apple’s fingerprint identification and this is the first time to my knowledge that this has actually gone to court. That the prosecutors say, “Ok, you have to use your fingerprint.”
Sam: It sort of gives a new meaning to the Big Lebowski style cutting of a finger or a toe by the mob.
Leo: (Laughing) Yea.
Sam: Like that, that’s happening. Wow.
Leo: So you know, we’ve always said, and we’ve talked with legal authorities who say, “You know, it probably is the case that the fingerprint on your phone is not protected.” But we’ve never had, there’s not been a court case. This would be the first. Some legal experts say there should be a higher bar for biometric data because in a way that is self-incrimination. It’s not just the DNA you’re getting form a hair or the fingerprint itself. You’re getting the phone and the contents thereof. And that is a lot more in this case.
Lauren: Well you’re also requiring someone to comply with that order. It’s not a situation where I don’t think, unless I’m mistaken, feel free to correct me, but I don’t believe that we have the technology to take a fingerprint and then use it on—
Leo: No, she has to put her finger on it.
Lauren: She has to put her finger on it which requires consent. That’s a bodily action and you know, she has to, she’s compelled to, she can keep her rights. She’s not doing anything that is illegal or unlawful while she’s in custody. And they can’t necessarily force her to but at the same time, this is the issue when you’re talking about something that’s encrypted or locked. You know, law enforcement can and will you know, place somebody in solitary confinement or hold them in contempt of court for months just to try to whittle them down and to break their spirit and to get them to respond to do these things, to unlock these things.
Leo: Good news is, and I think you all know this, technologically speaking, if you don’t enter your, if you don’t use your fingerprint on your iPhone after a period of time, you then have to enter the passcode. And the irony of this by the way is that you are protected from giving your passcode up. We know that for sure. So it may be by the time this is, it’s moot. Right? When does that kick in? I think after 24 or 48 hours your fingerprint stops working. You have to enter your passcode.
Devindra: Or if you reboot the phone, too.
Leo: Reboot the phone. Turn the phone off. Some are suggesting Apple should put a button on there that says, “All right, they need my passcode now.” But I think if you can just delay for 48 hours that’s sufficient. So it may be that this case is completely moot because of course they’ve had this phone for a lot longer than 48 hours. The Director of Privacy at Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society, Albert Gidari, says, “No, I don’t think this violates the 5th amendment. Unlike disclosing passcodes, you are not compelled to speak or say what’s ‘in your mind’ to law enforcement. But “Put your finger here” is not testimonial or self-incriminating.” See I think it’s because it’s not giving your fingerprint alone.
Devindra: It’s communicating something.
Leo: It’s getting the contents of your phone. It’s much more than just your fingerprint you’re giving up.
Lauren: Yep your phone is like your outside brain.
Leo: I would welcome actually this court case. I think it’s important that the courts rule on this. We’ve said for a long time people should not consider that they have protection against self-incrimination with a fingerprint. That a passcode is really the only way to do that.
Sam: I used to say that. I’ve actually gone to the photo, the photo of your face, the Windows Hello if that ever becomes a factor.
Leo: Oh, wow.
Sam: What the next level of encryption and the next level of “We’re going to need or require your whatever we’re doing to unlock your phone.” Of course unless it’s one of the crappy ones where you can just hold up a photo of the person’s face and then it still works.
Leo: So here’s the good news. I promised you good news at the end of this. The House of Representative of the United States Congress actually agreed on something unanimously. 419 to nothing. And it’s something pretty important. So we’ve mentioned this before but in case you didn’t know, thanks to a 20 year old law, the Electronic Communications Act, pardon me, 30 year old law from 1986, email after 6 months is considered abandoned. And law enforcement does not need a warrant to look at your email if it’s more than 6 months old. It’s not yours anymore. It’s abandoned. And law enforcement has taken advantage of this for years saying, “Well we’d like to see Leo’s email that’s more than 6 months old.” That kind of thing. I guess you know it’s interesting that the House agreed with such vigor that there should be a warrant. My thinking is there’s probably some members of the House that don’t want their old emails to be seen.
Sam: Yea, what are they hiding?
Leo: They watched Dennis Hastert to the perp walk and they thought, “You know, maybe we should have a warrant for this stuff.” (Laughing). 400 – this is a House that can’t agree on anything. 419 to nothing they passed a bill requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant to look through email no matter how old it is. This of course still has to go to the Senate and the president has to sign it. I think I remember that from I’m just a bill on Capitol Hill. You don’t remember that, do you?
Lauren: Yes, it’s Schoolhouse Rock.
Leo: You do remember that. Thank God.
Sam: Now I will say, this is sort of one of those slam dunk kind of bills because it sounds great to talking heads like ourselves. We get to look at this and go—
Leo: No, no. This is my good news. You cannot piss on this, Sam.
Lauren: He’s already done it.
Sam: I’m ready to drop a piss. Of course the issue that we just talked about is that there’s not really any scrutiny. Warrants as we know just get handed out left and right.
Leo: Oh, that’s right.
Sam: So guess what? We just answered why this is not a big deal at all.
Leo: Oh go ahead. Let them do that.
Sam: People are still going to get their emails checked but it does, as you said, create that extra little bit of cushion for that Congressperson who can push a little bit on a particular judge so that their emails don’t happen to go out. But for average citizens like yourself and myself, probably won’t help very much. So sounds really great. Everyone’s going to sound like they’re technologically savvy and into our rights, but nah. Not so much.
Leo: Actually you’re absolutely right. The bill originally had even stronger protections on privacy requiring law enforcement to notify the person whose electronics communications are being accessed within 10 days. This provision was removed in an amendment added by House Judiciary Committee Chairman, the man with the best name in Congress, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. So no notification necessary.
Lauren: Yea I believe the scientific term for this is happy glad.
Leo: Happy glad. Fooled me. I’m sorry I tried to bring you one good story out of those four. Geez.
Sam: And I shot it right down.
Leo: You shot it right down. Sam Mosh Pit. Thank you very much.
Sam: (Laughing) there we go. That’s the stuff.
Leo: (Laughing) Did anything happen at Samsung’s Developer Conference?
Devindra: They’re doing a standalone VR headset but that was the thing. Or they hinted at it. We don’t know what’s going to happen to it.
Leo: And they have a robot.
Devindra: They have a robot.
Leo: Otto the personal assistant robot.
Lauren: He’s cute.
Leo: Actually this looks just like Jibo which I already, which I bought and am waiting for. That’s the one that has that little head that walks around and looks at you and stuff. It doesn’t walk around. It sits on your counter. Otto the personal assistant robot.
Leo: Why does Samsung have a developer’s conference even? Why?
Devindra: I think it started a couple years ago. They want to be like Microsoft and Google and everyone. They want to you know, pretend that they have those platforms and they’re kind of getting there. Gear VR has done pretty well as a VR platform.
Leo: That’s true.
Lauren: And also they have a lot of success in 3rd party markets in South Korea of course. I mean they’re huge in South Korea and their development and infrastructure in South Korea is really great. And they had the opportunity to highlight that.
Leo: They have a refrigerator that has the internet.
Lauren: That too.
Sam: They’ve got that Samsung Pay that everybody likes so much.
Leo: Well, but that’s the thing. If you’re an Android device maker, you don’t need to have a separate developer’s conference. People are already making Android apps that happen to work on Samsung.
Devindra: Samsung’s a special case though, right? Because they’re the only—I feel like they’re one of the few Android device makers who are actually making money off of Android devices too. And they’re new TVs that we were talking about before, they actually put in their internet of things platform right inside there. So those will serve as a hub which is actually pretty smart. That will serve as the hub for that company that they bought. His name escapes me right now.
Devindra: SmartThings, yes. That will be the SmartThings hub.
Leo: Yea, that makes sense. That’s a developer platform for that. Yea, that makes a lot of sense.
Devindra: I feel like the internet of things has a long way to go and is probably not—it’s still not very useful for most people but that’s the sort of thing where your TV’s already your entertainment hub. At least make it the hub for everything else controlling your lights and security cameras and everything.
Leo: We were thinking that Google was going to get into this business with their OnHub router which was a very expensive router that kind of seemed to have more capabilities than it was showing. I guess. Ron Amadeo reviewed it for Ars Technica and said it wasn’t very particularly good and I actually had an OnHub which I cancelled on order. Because I thought well I want a better router. And if it’s just a regular old router. Well now they’ve rolled out a capability. It works—
Sam: If This Then That. There it is.
Leo: It works with If This Then That.
Lauren: Yea. Just put a bunch of Legos on it. Put the software form of Legos on your hardware.
Leo: But if you look at the recipes on If This Then That, the only thing the OnHub can tell you is that somebody joined the network or not.
Lauren: Yea. Which is, I don’t know exactly.
Leo: What are you going to do with that?
Lauren: I mean I assume that they’re going to expand to this and I think that If This Then That is kind of like a baseline now for the internet of things.
Leo: You’ve got to at least do that.
Lauren: Yea you at least, it’s like baseline. Here, we’re going to make this thing smart. It connects to If This Then That. You know, it will tweet at you if it’s down. You know like those sorts of things. I don’t necessarily—this is kind of like, again, like very baseline to me.
Leo: Here’s an example, here’s some examples of recipes. If a new sound or motion event through the Nest Camera, oh that’s Nest. No, that’s through the—oh, oh, oh. If your Nest Camera sees something happening, then prioritize it on OnHub.
Devindra: That’s special.
Leo: Turn your Philips Hue lights on when a device connects to the router (laughing). Receive a Gmail message when a device connects to the router (laughing). When you unplug your phone from charging, give it Wi-Fi priority. Log every time you connect to your router on a Google Spreadsheet.
Lauren: That’s super useful. That’s a game changer. That’s a game changer right there.
Sam: Why are you guys hating on the ability to do all this stuff? This is our catnip to be able to add If Then clauses to devices that don’t need them. I will say interesting that OnHub didn’t launch with this. It was there. There’s all sorts of—
Leo: There’s all sorts of other stuff in there, right? I mean—
Sam: So the question is, is it just the software wasn’t ready? Was the patent not lined up? Google was—somebody said, “We’ve got to get the hardware out now.” While some other team said, “What?” This is not just the typical Google hardware thing.
Leo: I use If This Then That in lots of ways.
Devindra: It’s typical for Google actually.
Leo: When I pull up to the studio, I tweet that I pulled up to the studio so that my employees will the booze away. Things like that I think are cool. If a device connects to your router then play your favorite song? Really? Is that something you want (laughing)?
Sam: It’s something I could want.
Leo: You might. You might want that. It could signal that I’ve arrived because I’ve connected to the router so play my theme song when I walk in the door.
Devindra: There you go.
Leo: There you go.
Devindra: Your personal soundtrack.
Leo: Yea, yea.
Lauren: I suppose I am lay on the bearish end of the smart home as it were. Because to me, you know I think that I have to see something that works reliably and in a way that’s novel enough to be everyday useful. It’s mostly like playing your theme song when you walk through the door, like super awesome and cool. But you know, it’s not necessarily going to—yea. It’s not going to like change whether or not Eye of the Tiger starts playing.
Leo: I find your lack of faith in home automation disturbing.
Sam: The whole beauty of this sort of thing is that it gets people hooked into the ecosystem of products which keeps you in there. That’s the idea anyway. You’re in for 5 or 10 years because you buy all these things that play nice and you’re using the software that connects them all together. And I think all of these companies, everybody who’s in the venture capital world of going, “Ooo, internet of things” all wants to be that baseline name, that name brand so that if this ever does catch on in a Fitbit sort of way, that people will go, “Oh, I want a Zigzorg.” Everybody wants to be the Zigzorg. And so I mean I personally can think of like 50 different stupid things if I just threw $2,000 dollars at everything required from motion sensors and lights and speakers.
Leo: I shouldn’t give them such a hard time. I just felt like the OnHub at $200 bucks should have done more and should continue to do more. It’s from Google for crying out loud. And it’s just a little disappointing to me. That’s all.
Devindra: And we should be reminded that a lot of their hardware—go ahead.
Sam: Oh, I was just saying I didn’t mean to give that much faith into Google as a hardware maker. They do release things that are soft cooked so I’m just conceding that, yea.
Devindra: That’s what I was saying, yea. Their hardware has stunk like over and over again. So I have no faith in Google as a hardware company and just look at what’s happened to Nest now that it’s like under them to and DropCam and everything. Like Google has no clue what to do with hardware so maybe the new hardware group they’re starting could help with that. But even then, it’s like not a fundamental thing to that company. They’re all about the internet services. They’re not about building good gear and things that work together well.
Sam: I do like my Chromecast audio. I have my entire home hooked up.
Leo: Oh, love it. Love it.
Sam: That is—and I’m shocked at how well it works and how well it syncs up. It blows my mind.
Devindra: A 2nd gen Chromecast product so it’s building on the platform that they’ve already started. But yea, that works really well. It’s on my receiver and I love it.
Lauren: And it’s simple. I mean you don’t need a lot. I taught my parents how to use a Chromecast audio and they are thrilled by the concept to be honest with you. But it’s like it’s really easy, it’s cheap and it works and it does a good, one good function very well.
Lauren: I think the issue is if you’re taught, if you’re throwing a bunch of stuff at your router, you know the odds of you finding something that really works for you are kind of limited. I don’t know, it’s like having the 900 channels on cable and nothing to watch.
Leo: Right. Can I use the Amazon Dot with the Chromcast audio?
Lauren: It will fight. They’ll fight each other.
Leo: Yea, that’s too bad. I use it with Bluetooth. I have a Bluetooth speaker. The Dot stays paired to it and that’s nice because now I have a good speaker with my Echo capabilities. We’re going to take a break, come back with some happy stuff. We’re going to cheer you up. I’m having lots of fun though with sandwich ketchup, developer hardware and Lauren hockysack. Good to have you all on the show today (laughing). I figure if I’m going to mess Sam’s name up I might as just ruin all of yours.
Sam: You’re all coming down with me (laughing).
Leo: You’re call going down (laughing). Thanks by the way to Aussie Geek Girl for providing me with those pseudonyms. Keep it up. Keep it up. We want to continue throughout the rest of the show which is almost over. Hey we had a great week this week. Did you see what we did this week on TWiT? We made a little movie to help you enjoy.
Narrator: Previously on TWiT.
Jason Howell: Becky’s going to do a little bit of a deep dive on the energy cost of data storage but let’s take a—
Becky Worley: Ok, stop. That is the worst tease I’ve ever heard. I’m going to make it the most interesting, hot, awesome discussion of the energy cost of data storage you’ve ever heard.
Jason: (Laughing) excellent.
Megan Morrone: Note to self. Let Becky write her own teases from now on.
Bill Atkinson: When he left for Next, Steve said, “You’ve got to come with me.” I said, “I’m in the middle of the HyperCard thing. This thing is going to be important.” And he said, “Well if you were really my friend, you would come with me.” “If you were really my friend you would want me to be fulfilled and successful at what I’m doing.”
Narrator: Windows Weekly.
Leo: This is KCCI, Iowa’s news leader and—
Weather Woman: I’ve just been recommended to upgrade to Windows 10. What should I do? Don’t you love when that pops up? Winds have been very gusty overnight as well. It’s that Windows 10, right? Don’t do it.
Leo: Wow, Microsoft. Wow! That’s the kind of PR you just can’t buy.
Narrator: TWiT. Test drive one today.
Leo: Oh, look at this. Dog beer.
Martin Sargent: Try it.
Leo: Yea, it’s Bowser Beer.
Audience: Oh yea. Oh!
Leo: No, it’s good. It’s got glucosamine. It’s not bad.
Martin: What’s the matter with you?
Leo: Television’s Martin Sargent. He’ll drink anything. It was a good Screen Savers if you haven’t seen the New Screen Savers from yesterday, do watch that. We’ve got a great week coming up. Megan Morrone, what’s ahead?
Megan: Thank you, Leo. It’s the first week in May, my favorite week of the year because it contains May the 4th Be With You Day. To celebrate you can ask your Amazon Echo to tell you a Star Wars joke. She’s got tons and some of them are even funny. I’m sure there will also be all kinds of other Star Wars news and fun all week. Also we will pick through earnings reports next week to find the gems among the numbers. Etsy, Zinga, Go Daddy, and Match, the folks behind Tinder and other popular dating apps will all be releasing earnings next week. Plus tickets to MineCon the Minecraft convention in Anaheim go on sale next week. Also the IEEE International Symposium on Hardware Oriented Security and Trust happens this week in McLean, Virginia. And this week Uber says it’s rolling out a pilot program where riders will get charged if their drivers have to wait longer than 2 minutes for them. So respect your Uber driver. Or take Lyft. Don’t miss Tech News Today every day at 4:00 PM Pacific with Jason Howell and myself. Back to you, Leo.
Leo: Thank you, Megan Morrone. TNT, Monday through Friday, 4:00 PM Pacific, 7:00 PM Easter, 2300 UTC for your daily dose of tech news. Could you rewind it when she went back to the reading earnings reports from Etsy, Zinga? I feel like if somebody’s living, if somebody from 30 years ago listened to the words coming out of her mouth today, they would think, they would be baffled. They would think like, “What has happened to the world?”
Sam: What about that whole spiel you had about—
Leo: Wait a minute, here you go.
Megan: to find the gems among the numbers. Etsy, Zinga, Go Daddy, and Match, the folks behind Tinder and other popular dating apps.
Leo: See? Etsy, Zinga, Go Daddy, Match and the folks behind Tinder. If you heard that like 19—
Sam: I would think you were talking about the Lollapalooza lineup. So that would be fine by me.
Leo: (Laughing) what is this world coming to?
Lauren: Well I mean yea, but one hour martinizing was thing once.
Leo: That’s true. That’s true. What is martinizing? No one knows.
Lauren: What is martinizing? I don’t know.
Leo: No one knows. But you can get it done in an hour. That’s the good news. Our show today brought to you by Carbonite online back up. So important to back up regularly. You know that. But what is a good backup? Well I can tell you a few things I look for. It’s got to be automatic so I don’t have to think about it. Continuous would be nice so if I change a file, I’m writing that great American novel and I add a new character I want to have that be backed up. I don’t want to lose that in a hard drive failure. And you know what? Failure’s happen. Most importantly you’ve got to backup offsite. So if there is a real disaster, a fire, a flood or somebody breaks in and steals all your stuff, your data at least is safe. You can replace that laptop. But all that work, all those baby pictures and the emails, the tax record, your great American novel, you don’t want to lose that. I have a friend that’s a novelist who, remember about 20 years ago there was a big fire in the Oakland Hills? A lot of houses burnt. Her house burnt. Her only copy of her novel burnt with it. That doesn’t have to happen anymore. We’ve got backup. And we’ve got Carbonite. I want you to try it right now. Go to Carbonite.com. Free trial awaits you. Use our offer code TWIT and you’ll get 2 free months when you buy. Home or office, Mac or PC, offsite backup you don’t have to worry about, you don’t have to think about, it’s just there. A million and a half homes trust, and businesses, trust Carbonite. 50 billion files restored, files that would have been lost forever. Don’t forget, use the offer code TWiT for 2 free bonus months if you decide to buy. That trial does not require a credit card. It’s free. And for a limited time, up to 30% off. So this is the time to do it. Carbonite.com. Let’s see. Happy stuff. I want to end on a high note.
Lauren: There’s going to be a new Nintendo console.
Leo: Yea. That’s good news.
Leo: It’s not over for Nintendo.
Devindra: It’s sad though.
Leo: They can survive.
Sam: Oh, no, you picked the wrong topic if you’re having me on.
Leo: (Laughing) why? You’re not a Nintendo fan?
Sam: Because I’ve got more pee to put onto that as well, but you know.
Leo: It’s really hard for Nintendo to come back.
Devindra: It’s not really happy news.
Leo: At this point. Is it going to be an HD device?
Lauren: We don’t know. I mean the thing about the Nintendo, Nintendo’s whole thing has been obviously they have the greatest selling console of all time with the Wii and they’re never going to be able to replicate that. That’s, nobody’s going to be able to replicate that. You know, Xbox, the Xbox 360 just went out of production development.
Leo: Ten years ago.
Lauren: Yea. Huge life cycle and that didn’t even get close. Didn’t even get within spitting distance. And keep in mind also, their handheld console business is still super good. They—
Lauren: The 3DS is a perennial seller.
Leo: 3DS still sells well.
Lauren: Perennial seller. It does a really good job. Technically if they wanted to get out of the home console market and just focus on handhelds and mobile, they could. And a lot of people suggest that they might and should. But I think that people were concerned that the new dawn of the Nintendo NX meant that they were throwing out the Wii U as sort of a mulligan and that it really wasn’t where they were going for. But at the same time I think that the Wii U was initially supposed to be a novelty console device. And I don’t recommend buying one now. I believe the last time I recommended buying one was right after Black Friday.
Leo: You all are of the generation though that grew up with Nintendo with Super Nintendo, NES or Mario and all of that stuff. You know it really was, that’s culturally important to you all, right?
Devindra: I’ll buy every Nintendo console that ever comes out. You know I bought several generations of 3DSs even the first one which burns be because the price was super high and then they like slashed it by $100 bucks. You’re right, Lauren, but yea, their handheld business has been good. I think for the past year, the 3DS, it just hasn’t done as well as it used to, or at least for their overall business. So like the NX has a lot to prove for next year. I actually would be interested. There were some rumors that it would kind of combine you know a home console plus a handheld type thing. And I think they were almost there with the Wii U. You know the Wii U’s controller is a great way to game when you have the TV off or somebody else is using your TV. Now if that thing were truly portable and like would give you reception all around the house or you could actually offload games and take it somewhere, that would be great. Because Nintendo has such a great library of games and I don’t know. I think that that would be a really good evolution of both the Wii and the 3DS type experience.
Leo: But Sam Mossywits, you did write the—
Lauren: Mossywith (laughing).
Leo: (Laughing) you did write the article—I’m sorry.
Sam: Keep them coming.
Leo: Nintendo says March 2017. I mean this isn’t imminent.
Sam: That is the very end of their fiscal year. So it seems like that was chosen very specifically as opposed to a Christmas or as opposed to an even longer delay. I’m just saying—
Leo: Yea, you would want to get this out for Christmas, wouldn’t you?
Sam: They’re saying that they don’t have enough software and everything they’ve delayed thus far is not that. They just released a Star Fox game after delaying it forever. That was not delayed to make it better. That tanked on launch with a lot of bad reviews. The sales are not as great as they had hoped.
Leo: And Zelda isn’t going to be out for the Wii U. It’s going to be out for the NX.
Sam: It’s going to be out for both. They’re going to—they’re delaying the launch for the Wii U version and just having it come out sometime in 2017. So we don’t even know if that’s going to launch with the Nintendo NX which assumedly, Nintendo’s never been the best at holding to these estimates by the way. So March ’17 is anybody’s guess.
Leo: Will they show this at E3?
Sam: No. They’re not going to share a single bit at E3.
Sam: They made that clear which is very surprising. In fact they’re not showing anything except the Zelda game. That’s it. Their E3 presence is going to be very limited which actually speaks a lot to publishers in general sort of shying away from thinking that E3 is a necessary thing. Nintendo’s been very big in the past couple of years.
Leo: So there’s more bad news about E3 than it is bad news about Nintendo.
Sam: Yea, that’s more bad news about E3. Nintendo’s been very good about controlling its image and its message through YouTube presentations in which their executives play out as little, as caricatures of themselves and show off games. That’s done very well.
Leo: The Miitomo did well, right?
Lauren: Yes, it has 10 million.
Sam: Miitomo is killing it. It is making money. It is going to keep on making money. And Nintendo was very clear that it’s got two more high profile franchises coming by this fall to smartphones. That’s going to be Fire Emblem which is like a strategy quest series and Animal Crossing which is what Miitomo should have been which has a lot more life simulation, a lot more customization. A lot of the stuff that I think is going to suit very well to smartphone use in the way that Animal Crossing games did very well on the DS and the 3DS.
Leo: So abandon hardware. Abandon platform. Just do iPhone games.
Sam: No. I mean that’s going to—you know what, here’s the thing. That could happen in our lifetime which is something that I would have never said. Because the big piece of news that got buried in a lot of these reports is that Nintendo is changing its corporate structure to a Western board style. You’re going to be seeing more executives from Nintendo of America having control in the Japanese side of things. You’re going to see a lot more democracy. You’re not going to see the hundred years of Nintendo running things with a Japanese iron fist. And I think as a result, this is not the generation where they’re giving up hardware. Nintendo very much wants to control how everything is presented, what’s played. But I do see this maybe being the last hurrah and the beginning of them going, “All right. Let’s be a services company. Let’s make our—we can have.” It’s always been about controlling control. They want with the Wii and the Wii U and the DS, even the Game Cube to some extent, they’re all weird controllers. They’re very obsessed with that. That’s a very Miyamoto driven sort of thing, the creator of Super Mario. And I see that really fading away as all these other hardware companies lead the charge on interesting interactive systems. I do think that Nintendo NX, whatever its name is really going to be, is going to tie into smartphones. I think that they’ve been hinting at a weird controller. I really do believe it’s going to be about taking the smartphone that everyone has all across the world especially Japan and just saying, “We’re going to have a standard controller. But we’re going to make sure your smartphone is tied into this because we want your eyeballs all of the time.” So I see this being the beginning of the end of Nintendo hardware. And I think it’s going to do well.
Leo: Look what I found in Lauren’s purse. That is so cute.
Lauren: Oh, hello. Is this the new 3DS that is actually not available for sale in America with an imported Japanese face for you?
Leo: Where did you get that? Can I show it? Have I just broken your NDA?
Lauren: No, no, you’re totally fine.
Leo: Oh, that’s cute.
Sam: It’s not illegal to buy things in other countries.
Lauren: You can see—
Leo: (Laughing) Not yet.
Lauren: It’s fully, it’s Animal Crossing.
Leo: Let’s show the world. Oh this looks so cute.
Lauren: I love Animal Crossing.
Sam: With the replaceable front and back plates which is great.
Lauren: Yea, they sell front and back.
Leo: This is great. So this is Animal Crossing back plates?
Lauren: This is yea. Those are all the characters. You can get any theme that you want but being a big Animal Crossing fan as I am, if anybody has viewed on my laptop I have the town assistant, Isabelle, is prominently featured. But yea, so I’m a big, as you can see, I’m a huge Nintendo fan to the point where I made the decision to, I got this 3DS and I imported a faceplate from Japan because I want to look like the coolest kid, you know, on my big wheel when I’m riding around the neighborhood. But I think it’s really important highlighting two things. One, the 3DS again, I mean it’s reaching a transition phase but they’re still putting out great content for it and it’s still selling very well. And also the interesting thing is about what they’re doing—
Leo: Oh, they’re so cute. They turn your back when you go the other way.
Lauren: The interesting thing about the NX and when you crossover is I’m interested to see what kind of media they’re going to use, whether or not they’re going to use a disk. Whether or not they’re going to be backwards compatible. How they’re going to decide to distribute their software is going to be really interesting. And I think that the Wii U will exist sort of as this archive system that also works with Wii games that, and that will still be a family console that people will continue to go to if you have a busted Wii, you can get a Wii U and all that. But it will be interesting to see again whether or not the NX does have a thoughtful interaction with smartphones because yea, I think that it will. And also you’re never going to see me once the Animal Crossing mobile game comes out. I apologize in advance.
Leo: Wow. Wow. I really tapped into something here haven’t I? Wow. I don’t get it at all. You know I—you know, Sega did this software only thing and they disappeared from the face of the earth. They sunk deep below the ocean’s waves.
Sam: Not so much as disappear. They absolutely scaled down but they also combined with I want to say was it Sami? Or SMK? You know and they’re actually, and I know that they do a lot of slot machine work. Like they’ve taken all their arcade expertise.
Leo: Pachinko? Are they big into Pachinko?
Sam: Oh, yea, yea. So they’re still—they pivoted. I believe it’s an actual use of the word is correct.
Leo: Why did you stick a Vive Wand down your pants, Sam?
Sam: Well now we’re getting to good stuff.
Devindra: It’s good course feedback.
Sam: I found out—I’m very interested in virtual reality. Not so much as putting a screen on my face as much as being able to do new things with computer systems, whether that’s games or productivity. I think hand tracking is one of the most incredible things. I’m obsessed with it. One of the big limitations with virtual reality is going around a big space. As soon as you put a headset on and you feel immersed, you dream of a Sky Rim or a Zelda where you can walk across the landscape.
Leo: Oh, wouldn’t you want to? Yea.
Sam: Which doesn’t really work. However, as you can see right there on the video, I found an alternate path which was putting a little motion tracked wand down the front of my pants or on a belt loop. I didn’t have a belt at that time. I apologize. And then with the way that the tracker stations work for the Vive as opposed to Oculus, it sees that. It sees my hip location and it can see if I am running in place then it knows where my hip is turned. So as long as it has my hip alignment—
Leo: You can move around.
Sam: I can jog in place and you can see here as I jog in place it will look like I’m moving. My body doesn’t get sick. And I can turn my head and my arms and my hands. You’ll see as I’m moving around I’m going to do a little turn around in the video. What was really impressive was the feeling that I could run in place to move forward but I could shoot a gun left and right. It had a very basic, this prototype had a very basic gun implement. So I could imagine myself in Call of Duty running away from bad guys and still shooting behind me or to my side. It just, it’s clearly not the best thing possible but for some guy to simply say, “Let’s just stick the wand down my pants and see what happens,” and have it be that convincing really sets a good tone for sort of future implementations of this sort of thing. Now you’re going to look silly if you run in place. And you’re going to look silly if you—
Leo: Dude, you look silly when you’re playing VR of any kind. It doesn’t really make you look any worse.
Sam: It’s early days and the guys who made it admitted as much. He said, “This is way better than I expected considering it costs nothing.” You would probably need to implement a really cheap belt to pull it off.
Leo: So their wand is RF not visual.
Sam: Correct. It’s picking, it’s the smart thing. The lasers that are being projected into your room are dumb. The wand is sending all of that real tie information via Bluetooth to your computer, recognizing your absolute position in the room and adjusting the game accordingly. So I just thought it was very, very inventive and I really like excuses of putting things down my pants.
Leo: I love it.
Sam: So it was a dream day.
Leo: Very cool.
Sam: I don’t think that’s going to be the Nintendo NX if that’s what you’re wondering.
Leo: Yea, I’m wondering now. I would play, I played the Samsung Gear VR Minecraft. And that was actually surprisingly fun. Did you—now I know Jason Cleanthes our producer told me about it and you said you played it for how many hours?
Jason Cleanthes: Well I can only play it for about an hour and a half before the battery would die.
Leo: Ok. That’s a good thing.
Jason: So I would play it in hour and a half windows.
Leo: I mean you’re looking up. You’re looking down. You’re looking around. You’re in the Minecraft World. You’re moving around.
Jason: I don’t play Minecraft on my PC. I couldn’t stop playing with it with the VR headset on.
Leo: Yea, it’s pretty fun.
Sam: Leo, have you heard about the fact that someone has hacked the stork with the Vive as well? If you take your normal purchased Minecraft and hack the files just a little bit you can have Minecraft with the Vive which includes not only that relative head positioning, but also the ability to kind of look around, point in the distance to warp somewhere else. It actually in my opinion fixes all the nausea issues that happen with the Gear VR which simulates walking. So if you’re sitting down but you simulate turning, you can get sick. The Vive version totally fixes that. Nobody from Microsoft or Mojang has officially condoned or said—they’ve yet to say yay or nay to it. But it is so cool to get that feeling of I actually have the guy who showed it to me the first time when he hacked it, had me dig a hole underneath my feet and then feel trapped inside of it. It was one of the most intense feelings I’ve ever had in VR, I think mostly because of Minecraft being this comfortable thing. And I think the Gear VR version is a big deal because that is going to reach a lot of people. But I think—
Leo: But doesn’t that mean that Oculus will have it on its Rift at some point soon?
Lauren: Yea, it will be available for Windows 10.
Sam: Yea, they’ve been demoing that. Microsoft and Oculus have sort of teamed up and shown that off at events but they always show it off with a bowl of ginger candy because it’s the motion recreation with the controller, with the joystick just messes with the vestibular system in a way that the Vibe moves your own body around system does not.
Leo: I have to get this Vive.
Lauren: True story. I demoed the Minecraft App for Windows 10 with the Oculus Rift and had a really great time for 15 minutes and then ended up having to prop my body up against a tree outside of the event and talk myself out of throwing up in front of all the security guards. It worked but I was a wreck.
Leo: No I actually got a little nauseous with just the Gear VR after just a little bit of time. But I do love the idea of being able to you know, use my hands.
Sam: You can chop with the Vive. You can chop and you can’t do that with the Gear VR. And lord knows, virtual chopping is going to really fill up the Christmas tree this year.
Leo: Well at least geeks are getting a little bit of exercise.
Sam: Yes, yes, just a little.
Leo: Not a huge amount, but a little bit of exercise. Interesting. Is this the guy who invented it or is this just some video of the guy trying it out?
Sam: This is some shmuck we found on the street.
Leo: Just some guy. Wow. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we should wrap it up with that bit of excitement. You know I’m excited. A lot of fun. You guys are fantastic. Please come back and do it all again. Lauren Hockenson with your gold bow and your soon to be new employment or not.
Lauren: Yea. I’ll be announcing it probably this week.
Leo: Ok, good. We’ll be watching. On the Twitter or where will you announce it?
Lauren: We’ll see. I mean Twitter is the place for personal news.
Lauren: So maybe that will do it.
Leo: Do you have a blog? Do people your age have blogs? No.
Lauren: No. You can follow me on Snapchat or Instagram. And of course Nothing Matters, my podcast is available on SoundCloud where @nomattercast on Twitter and we’re pretty, it’s still kind of a new thing but I’m trying and experimenting with, so we’re always looking for feedback and yea, you can find it also on iTunes and Google Play or your podcast app of choice.
Leo: Nice. Sam Machkovech, it’s great to have you. Thank you so much for being here. Arstechnica.com. Samred on the Twitter. Anything you want to plug?
Sam: Just the fact that a gentleman who’s watching the show asked if I could make out with him because he said I’m hot. I think that’s very flattering, sir, and if you come up to Seattle and take me out to dinner, we’ll figure it out. I really also want to say, Devindra and Lauren, I am so happy to be on the show with your guys. You’re fantastic. I’m big fans of your work. Leo, you’re all right I guess. Just I’m going to be watching Captain America and writing about that. I’ve got a piece about the team who made the game Hover Junkers. I’ve got a feature about that team. It’s a Vive game in which you are on a hovercraft and shooting people as if—it’s the most intense laser tag-like game I’ve ever played in virtual reality and they’re very great guys. So that’s in the works. And otherwise I’m just going to be apparently accepting date offers on Twitter. Thanks again for having me.
Leo: (Laughing) Oh, really great. And Sam is a regular on TNT every Friday I think is going to be your regular day on Tech News.
Sam: That’s my day.
Leo: Yea. That’s nice. Devindra, always a thrill too. Devindra Hardawar, senior editor at Engadget and slash Filmcast.
Devindra: Yes. Slashfilm.com. We’ll have our summer movie wager podcast up soon so we’ll like take that on like what’s going to do the best over the summer. So that episode’s happening this week.
Leo: Do you want to tip your hand on that or do you prefer to keep it—
Devindra: I feel like most of us kind of agreed on what was going to be the winner and it’s pretty much going to be Captain America but we’ll see. We’ll see.
Leo: I don’t like comic book movies.
Devindra: Aw, the last Captain American movie was really good. Like even if you don’t like the Marvel movies in general, like that one was really a good action movie. I don’t know if you’ve seen it.
Leo: Is that the Winter Soldier?
Devindra: Winter Soldier, yea.
Leo: It is the Winter Soldier. All right. I have not seen it. So maybe tonight!
Devindra: You should see it. It’s a great action movie. It’s a great almost like a 70s spy thriller too. Like it’s pretty good.
Leo: Going to be bigger than the female Ghostbusters?
Devindra: You know, I have a lot of hope for that one.
Leo: That looks funny. I love the cast.
Devindra: It looks great. Yea, I love them all. Paul Feig’s movies don’t do like comic book movie level business but it will be interesting to see. There’s that and Suicide Squad that’s probably going to do big business this year.
Leo: I saw some really good trailers but I can’t remember what any of them were for. It looked like a good summer.
Leo: You know where to go to find out more? Slashfilm.com. That’s where you go and if you want to hear about tech news and talk about what it all means, you’ve got to come here every Sunday, 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern time, 2200 UTC. That’s when we do TWiT. You can be in the studio too. We’ve got a great studio audience. Thank you all for joining us. Just email email@example.com. We’ll put a chair out for you. And if you can’t be here, be in the chatroom at irc.twit.tv or watch on the stream. You can always get it after the fact because we make audio and video of all of our shows available at our website twit.tv. Or at your favorite podcatcher, that way you can subscribe and not miss one. We thank you all for being here. We’ll see you next time! Another TWiT is in the can. Bye-bye.