This Week in Tech 586
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech! Wow, we've got a great panel. Tom Merritt joins Christina Warren and backchannel's Steven Levy to talk about the new Mac Pro, the new Surface Studio; well, have Apple and Microsoft traded places? What's going to happen to Vines? They're shutting them down. And AT&T spying on us for profit! It's all coming up next on TWiT.
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Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 586, recorded Sunday, October 30, 2016.
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It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech, the show where we cover the week's tech news! I'm so excited about today's show. We have a fabulous panel on hand for you. Here he is: tall and too cool and tan and lovely: Tom Merritt of DTNS.
Tom Merritt: I wasn't sure who you were talking about.
Leo: It's great to see you, Tom.
Tom: Good to see you too. Thanks for having me back.
Leo: He still has the impenetrable Twitter handle @acedtect. Good luck spelling that. Now it's an asset, not having a handle that anybody can spell, that's actually an asset.
Tom: It proves that people really want to follow me.
Leo: Exactly. Hey, I recognize that chuckle. It's Christina Warren. Great to see you again, from Gizmodo.
Christina Warren: Yes! Great to see you too. Thanks for having me.
Leo: Always a thrill. Late of Mashable now of Gizmodo. We should probably say that, so people don't think I got it wrong. @film_girl on Twitter. And I think, although I'm sure I'll get corrected if I'm wrong, his first time on TWiT. Steven Levy is here. Thrilled to have one of the greats in Tech Journalism. I mean that sincerely, Steven. Your book, Hackers is literally the best book ever written about the computer revolution. What is it now? 30 years old?
Steven Levy: 32, I guess.
Leo: Wow. If you haven't read it, folks, you've got to read it. It's all about the original MIT Hackers.
Christina: Steven, I have to be a bit of a fan girl between my husband and myself, we have four copies of Hackers.
Leo: You'd think that's the only thing Steven ever wrote, but he's written an awful lot since then.
Steven: Time for another one, don't you think?
Leo: The best computer books, the ones I've liked are Tracey Ketter's Soul of the New Machine, Hackers. Books about what really happened behind the scenes--behind the headlines. I feel like nobody does it better than you, Steven. And of course, everybody can follow Steven's writing now on Back Channel, which is weirdly on Medium, but owned by Codi Nast. Did I get that right?
Steven: That's correct. We started on Medium. I was excited after all these years after writing about companies like Medium to leave Condé Nast to join it.
Leo: You were at Wired!
Steven: I was at Newsweek, then I moved to Wired, I always loved Wired. But the idea that to start my own publication, this company headed by F Williams, whom I really admire, was really fantastic. Then we had an opportunity to move, lock, stock and barrel to Condé Nast and still be on Medium, it was a win/win. Everyone benefitted. I'm at the same floor of the World Trade Center that I would have been, had I stayed at Wired. It was kind of an interesting circle. I'm in a different position at Condi Nast. I'm currently writing the editor in chief of my little publication. We have a fantastic team. Jesse Hemple, another fantastic tech writer, she's one of the greats. She joined us with the move. It's not just me, it's her and other great contributors. We talked about Scott Rosenberg; he writes for us. We have a fantastic executive editor. Sandra Upson who came with me from Medium. There she is, you can see her in that picture there. That thing on the left, we're having our first event in a couple weeks. It's breakfast with Susan Line and it's going to be a very small breakfast. Back Channel is into building a community with its readers, so we're doing a small breakfast where people get to participate and talk to each other, and we're pretty excited about that.
Leo: Where are you going to do that? Oh. New York.
Steven: At the Ace Hotel in New York, yeah.
Leo: I wish I could be there for that. It sounds like a lot of fun. I'm an avid Backchannel reader, I think many of the stories we talk about today as well are from Back Channel. I'll start with the story, it's your cover story if you have one on Back Channel, the iPod is 15 years old. Not at ship date, but its announce date was 15 years ago on Friday. Boy, that's hard to believe. 2001. 15 years on the one hand is not long, but we're lightyears beyond what the iPod represented. The first iPod 5 gigs, I have almost that much in my watch! Of course, it was a black and white screen, a spinning hard drive, not solid state. A spinning click wheel, and it had to be charged and filled with a fire marking. Pretty amazing! All Technology is long gone. Even that spinning hard drive has been abandoned by...
Steven: It was an email story as well as an iPod story. The anniversary crept up on me. I think it's probably October 23. I saw someone else wrote about it and they had a picture of my Newsweek cover, they wrote about it a few years later. I thought wow, I should do something about this. Eventually writing a book about the iPod. I went back into my email from October 2001, and it was falling into a time warp. If you keep your emails, that's what's going to happen. It was amazing. If you remember October 2001 was a weird time for a lot of us.
Leo: It was a month after 9/11.
Steven: We were coving what was happening post 9/11, and we had the extra twist that some people thought anthrax had been mailed to us in our office. We had people in bio suits walking around and someone in the art department had the flu. We thought we were all dead. I reprinted the email, get our mail in separate rooms, put on gloves before touching the mail. That was the backdrop of getting this mail from Apple saying we're coming out with this device. I said I don't think I'm going to go out there, I'm busy covering the end of the world here, and they said don't worry. We'll hand deliver you an iPod. Here we'll set up this interview with Steve for you, Steve Jobs. Which is what happened. I talk about that, and wind up revisiting something I wrote about in Newsweek and later in the book, about the time a day later when I went to a dinner because Windows XP was rolling out and they were rolling out New York, which was a big vote of confidence for the city, but the night before the launch they had a dinner, I sat next to Bill Gates, and pulled the iPod out of my pocket which he hadn't seen. I got to show it to Bill Gates.
Leo: A rare opportunity to one up Bill Gates. Was he interested?
Steven: He was fascinated. I handed it to him and it was him and the iPod having this moment together. He was impressed. A little surprised that it was only for Macintosh. Steve eventually figured out that this was a product everyone could like and it was a change in direction for Apple. Instead of just promoting the platform of the computer, there was a big opportunity for Apple to lead in the post PC era. That's exactly what happened.
Leo: You might say this is the beginning of the post PC era.
Christina: I have a Mac because I had an iPod. I used Macs in school, but when I went to college they were expensive and OS 10 was not great. But the iPod was so fantastic. That halo effect that everybody wrote about was a very real thing, so I had it with my Windows computer, but I want the whole experience.
Leo: According to Walter Isaacson, Jobs went kicking and screaming into the Windows version. He had to be convinced to make a Windows version of iTunes.
Christina: The first Windows iPod came out in September 2002, a little under a year after the first one came out, didn't have iTunes. It used Music Match Juke Box.
Leo: That's right. They didn't have iTunes!
Christina: iTunes didn't launch in Windows until 2013, I want to say. Remember they had the big super bowl campaign in 2004, which was 2003 that they finally brought iTunes to Windows.
Leo: You know what's awesome about this? This is the original. It still works, if you can find a cable to charge it and can figure out how to connect it to the wall. My songs are still on here. This is kind of interesting, it's like a time machine of the thousand songs you were listening to in 2001.
Steven: You could only pick a thousand songs back then.
Leo: Let's fast forward 15 years. I'm curious what you all think about this. Apple had its event this week. It's October event, no iPods, no iPhones, it was all about Macintosh, not about Macintosh, but about MacBook Pros. No mention of iMac or the Mac Pro which is way overdo for an update, at least we got new laptops. But Apple, which has turned its back on touch screens for desktop computing acknowledged that it had missed the boat. At least that's my interpretation and put an OLED touch bar in place of the function keys. I'm not saying anything who wasn't paying attention doesn't already know. What's interesting is it was the day after a Microsoft event where Microsoft went after Apple's core audience the creatives. They named the next version of Windows coming out this Spring the Creative edition and introduced Microsoft's first desktop computer--they've never made one before, a 28 inch all in one dubbed the surface studio. Apple pricing at $2,999 for the base unit. You might say we've seen an iMac, that was 15 years ago, but this one lies almost flat on the table at a 20 degree angle like a drafting table. It's aimed at the designer, the artist, the musician, the people that Apple has traditionally honed. It's caused some creatives to say oh. Tom, did Apple miss the boat?
Tom: That depends on who you are. Right? If you're somebody who looks at that and says that's the device that I was waiting for, then yeah. If you're somebody who says I like OS10 reliability, and I need a laptop, then no. They haven't done anything with Windows that would make someone who loves OS X switch, what they've done is Windows has a bunch of stuff you wouldn't think of Windows being able to do. If that's one of those things you've been wanting to do particularly on a touch screen, my friend Scott Johnson is intrigued by this, he says I don't have to get a wake up tablet, I could get a surface tablet or maybe a surface studio.
Leo: You don't need the Cintiq.
Christina: The big Cintiq, is actually $3000. It has more pressure sensitivity points, but it's lower resolution and it is literally just a tablet.
Leo: Some have pointed out that this ad that Microsoft showed for the new surface studio is very Apple-y.
Christina: So Apple!
Tom: I was shocked not to hear Jonathon Ive narrate.
Leo: It is the thinnest Windows PC.
Tom: The Google Pixel ads are also very Apple.
Leo: That shows Apple's influence. It doesn't mean they're trying to eat Apple's lunch, it just shows Apple's influence on advertising.
Christina: It's beautiful. I got a few minutes to play with it at the event on Wednesday and was very impressed. Especially for such a niche device.
Leo: Niche in a number of ways, although it makes sense if you think about Microsoft as being the creator of Windows 4 OEMS. They don't want to get Dell and Lenovo mad at them. So you make a device that's not going to eat much of their business, the OEM's business, but can show what Windows can do.
Tom: One of the interesting reactions to the daily tech news show audience was people saying they went on and on when they introduced Windows 10 creator's edition about how this was for everyone. You didn't have to be a computer expert, and then they come out with this opinion, insanely expensive computer.
Leo: This is not for everyone. Influenced by the surface table! Remember when they announced the iPad in 2010, Microsoft said we got something like that! It's a big ass table.
Steven: This kind of stuff, has been around for a while, Microsoft has had it in a research lab, they hired an engineer that did it on his own. Microsoft has had this wrap that things could sit in the research division and fester for years and years and years. This is a case where they finally did bring it out and it's getting applause and kudos and things like that. A lot of people are saying that Microsoft is more innovative than Apple. I googled that phrase, there are 30 tech publications that said it. I think it's more accurate to say that Apple is in a position that Microsoft was in during the 90's of being the dominant company in the dominant platform, which is mobile. They can't innovate as drastically as the condemned.
Leo: They've inherited Microsoft's legacy problem.
Steven: So you see how slow they are in a total re-design of the iPhone. We've been getting these increments. You get one big, innovative feature and that's OK. That's the next iPhone, whether it's the new number or an S. You can see it's painstakingly deliberate as to how they evolve this product, because people still buy it. I had a really lucky break this time around with Samsung's catching fire all the time. They're off the market, no one is going to buy it. I don't think the Pixel is going to roll out in any kind of numbers that will threaten Apple.
Leo: Pixel's problem is you can't get it in carriers except Verizon, and even T Mobile said buy it from Google and you can bring it to T Mobile, that's not how you get to market, really.
Steven: Even in the Verizon stores, it's not clear how much the sales people will push it as the Android phone to buy. Apple has a clear coast this Christmas, anybody who is buying the phone, you've got to think of Apple first.
Tom: I think the key is if you're doing a long-term line like laptops, they're declining for everybody so Apple is bucking the trend by maintaining a smaller decline than other people, you innovate very slowly. You say look, reliability and familiarity are good. What Apple hasn't done, which I think people are noticing here, is come up with something that stuns you, like the iPad or the iPhone did. Microsoft hasn't put out an all in one PC before, and they put out one with some cool design.
Leo: It feels, part of the problem isn't exclusive to Apple. It's hard to think about what more you can add to a Smartphone that would make people gasp. Aren't we close to the perfection point? No? Steven, you disagree? You think there's some magic lying out there that we haven't plumbed yet?
Steven: Absolutely. That's they're job to do that; to find those things!
Leo: Are they unable to find it, or is it more that they just can't leave their legacy customers behind?
Steven: You'd have to go behind closed doors in Cupertino to answer that question. If they're not working on something, which is mind blowing for the phones, and shame on them because that's their job.
Leo: Meanwhile, a number of creatives are saying that these new laptops are pro in name only. It's a marketing term, they tap out at 16 gigs of ram, which anybody who uses Photoshop is the bare minimum.
Christina: I think that's more limitation of the processor.
Leo: Apple claimed it was to save battery life. You've got to wonder about Apple's... it seems like drive to make things thinner and lighter at the expense of power. It's Prosumer. It's not pro.
Steven: Here's the forgotten member of the Apple family. Everybody talked about should I get this or the MacBook air and Apple seems to be saying to you don't think about the MacBook air, because they compared this favorably with the MacBook Air, but Apple has this Macbook, this beautiful 12 inch computer which is woefully underpowered, and I really thought they were going to renounce a version of the 12 inch Macbook, which is going to be more sufficiently powered.
Leo: That's what the rumor mill seems to indicate. The 13 inch would be a MacBook 13, but it really is a stripped down MacBook pro.
Christina: I've got it.
Leo: You do?
Christina: It's very thin.
Leo: That's an air competitor, except it's 300 bucks more than the air.
Christina: This is the one that does not have the touch screen, it just has the regular function rows. But, yeah.
Leo: How's the keyboard?
Christina: It's the same as the Macbook, but they re-adjusted the way that the butterfly switch mechanism works, so it actually feels better to type on.
Leo: good. I make so many mistakes on the Macbook.
Christina: So it's a weird fragment that travels the same, but in my experience, I could tell it feels better. The key size is the same, the distance between the keys is the same.
Leo: That's the same keyboard that you're going to see in the other MacBook.
Christina: The difference is obvious. the other ones will have the ability to, whatever the technology is at the top. The cheaper machine just has the two that are...
Leo: I think for a MacBook air, so you lose out, you have a better screen, thank goodness, because the air screen was starting to look pathetic, but you lose the ports and you lose the price.
Christina: You lose the ports... Amazon is already selling the 1300 dollar one for 1150. B and H is undercutting it too.
Leo: You rarely see that. Apple controls it so tightly.
Christina: Especially not with new stuff.
Leo: 1140 that's significant.
Christina: If I'm going to make any sort of critique not getting into the merits of the Macbook and whether the touch bar is the future and a new paradigm or revolutionary way, the price was the one thing that stuck out to me was being a little bit off. I understand they're putting a lot of technology in this, I understand it has an armed processor, and a secure element.
Leo: The OLED screen is a computer with the same operating system as Watch OS.
Christina: That's all very cool, but the big critique that a lot of us have, and I'm a Mac user, as much as I might have abandoned sometimes by certain things, I'm a Mac user, I'm not going to go to Windows, that's just not going to happen. I do feel like the price point they're starting out at is a little high, and that's going to be difficult for people to justify. 1800 dollars for another ten inch laptop...
Leo: Ironically, pros, because they're buying something for work... they're not as price sensitive.
Steven: But the last version of the MacBook pro was great about them. Some people said these were the greatest computers Apple ever made because they were not so much more expensive. If you compare a MacBook pro to an air, the MacBook pro was a much better deal.
Tom: The 2013 version maxed out in the 3000 dollar range. These got up above $4000. All you can get are pros. Yes, there is one MacBook version, there is the old MacBook air version, but they are very obviously tilting towards MacBook pros. Not targeting the upward professionals.
Leo: I don't have a problem with them dropping the air, because they've got a very thin and light. They've got a medium thin and light with this OLED 13 inch, so the line makes sense. The problem is you cannot buy a loaded MacBook Pro that does what they pretended it could do. They had an LG 5 case screen hooked up to it, and suddenly it's a work station on your desktop. Thunderbolt 3drive raise, but it isn't because of 16 gigs of ram. It feels like... I feel like Apple doesn't care about it. Look at the MacPro. Three and a half years in, and no update in sight.
Christina: Which is a shame! I don't think they have to care about that market as much. I think that is an opportunity for the Microsofts of the world. The first crack was with final cut ten, I was at NEB the year it was announced and saw people gasping, and not in a good way. Then a year later, so many people had switched to Premier.
Leo: All our edit suites are running Dell PCs, Windows 8, and Premier. Because we didn't have an upgrade path with the MacBook Pro.
Christina: they finally did come up with one, but it was too late. So at this point, when you're talking about 3 plus year old Mac Book Pro hardware, it was very extendable machine, very good machine. The fact that it has as many forces as it had is fine, but now everything is moving to Thunderbolt 3 and SBC and so what are people going to do? You're asking them to maintain two different ecosystems, if you have a mobile work station with your new MacBook Pro and you're still having a professional suite with your Mac Pro, that's a little bit odd.
Leo: Steven, are Apple and Microsoft fighting over a moribund category anyway? Is there any market for the PC except for the small niche of developers and professionals?
Steven: I think there is. There's a lot of people who still use laptops. Millions are sold every year.
Leo: It is shrinking though.
Steven: It is shrinking. Apple has said... Tim Cook in particular has said that he feels that for what a lot of people do, they should be happy with the iPad Pro, and for me, I don't edit movies or things like that, but I just like a lot of storage, powerful word processor, usually mood music, things like that. I like to take it along with me.
Leo: Did you use the Chrome book, Steven?
Steven: It's funny. I went to Nigeria a few weeks ago, and didn't want to cross borders with my data, so I took a Chromebook with me and it was perfectly fine. I took a Pixel.
Leo: That's what I would worry about it if I were Apple.
Steven: I use a computer a lot where there's no good Internet connection, a Chromebook is not good if you're not connected to the Internet. That's out for me. I was actually thinking, I have a Mac book air, a Macbook pro for work, and I thought this is a good time, I was looking forward to this announcement, I'm going to buy a personal laptop to replace the MacBook air I have. Not quite sure if I'm going to be running out to get one. I'm going to have to get a lot of dongles and things like that, it's going to be more money than I thought. I was a little disappointed that the basic things were 13 inch. Even the highest end 13 inch, you only 256 gigs of storage there and automatically I would buy 12. As for the touch pad, I'm going to have to take a look at it and see if it really is revolutionary. I'm optimistic, I'd love to see what they do with it.
Leo: It feels like the touch pad is Apple's lame ass way of responding to touch screens.
Steven: About a year ago, I went to Apple. They invited me to take a look at their accessories lab, it was around the time of the iMac launch, and I sat there with Phil Schiller and he gave me the grand unified theory of Macintosh.
Leo: That was a great conversation.
Steven: He laid out can you do this, this is for the phone, this is for the iPad, this is for the laptop, and this is for the desktop. I asked him specifically what about a touch screen? He said no. That's wrong. People, their head is down, the keyboard you work with. It's ergonomically a disaster to touch the screen, you get your gooey fingers on the screen, it's just wrong. The extension of that, Apple, for whatever, since the iPhone came out, they've been trying to make the desktop behave more like the phone, so the operating systems are merging there, so this does a lot of things that are created because of the limitations of the phone. I mentioned I wrote our newsletter about it this week. The one thing I saw in the demo that I gave is it suggests words for you, like it does for the phone. How strange is that? You're working this whole full- fledged keyboard right? You're probably going to type things wrong, so they'll suggest the next word you use, but now they're doing it on top of a keyboard.
Leo: So far. I think Apple is saying it's wrong until it's right. Isn't that how Apple works. They got OS 10, clearly. That was a painful process. Which was the transitional operating system. Microsoft suffered for that. They'd gone through the fire, and now they come out at the other end, with the surface studio, that proves Apple is wrong. This shows that touch is exactly what you want.
Christina: Well I think for what the surface studio is good for, Touch is good. I don't think that for a lot of other applications, touch is...
Leo: If you're doing Excel spreadsheets, or you're writing your column for medium, probably not.
Christina: that's what a lot of people do.
Tom: I tell you when I use my surface book Pro, I find I rarely ever touch the screen.
Leo: It's not an all the time thing, but every once in a while you touch a button because it's more convenient, there's a big button there. You touch it..'
Tom: It's not like when I switch over to a Mac I find myself trying to touch the screen...
Leo: I do. You don't touch the screen all the time? I do. Not when switching from Windows ten, but switching from iPhone to iPad. Constantly touching the screen.
Steven: Here's an interesting idea. We also learned that Apple was getting out of the stand-alone monitor business. What if either they're working with some third party on the equivalent of that big thing and the surface studio that you use as an Apple? What if someone comes out with the equivalent of what we've seen there that works with your laptop the way...
Leo: I think that's why we have to re-write Windows Macintosh though.
Christina: The waycoms, work with Mac. You can use the tablets. There's an idea. I agree with you. I think they'd have to re-write it. I will say this though. When I was playing with the new Macs, I kept almost touching the screen, but I as playing with the touch bar, I kept reaching up and almost touching the screen. That was a first, and I've long thought that Apple didn't need to go touch. I think that it's indisputable of saying the touch bar is their way of saying we're doing touch on our terms. This is bringing it to those features people want, but we're going to do it on our terms.
Leo: It looks so dopey. They brought out a DJ, and it looks so dopey for the guy to be using this little touch thing to do his thing. He could just get an iPad and do it all on the screen.
Tom: They do seem to be tilting the iPad to be the replacement for the MacBook. To say look, if that's the kind of thing you want, then get an iPad Pro or get an iPad. We're going to have the laptops be serious laptops. Do they come out with larger iPods then? Like that's the touchscreen interface?
Steven: The first iPad Pro was ginormous. You could surf on it.
Leo: I always want to serve drinks on it.
Tom: I have that in a 15 inch laptop, so you think of it as smaller. But I guess what I'm saying is do we want a 15 inch touch iPad Pro?
Leo: I don't know. We're not going to get the surface studio until December 15, I'll get the Macbook pro before then, but I just think that surface studio... I'm not an artist, I could draw stick figures, it looks like the kind of device Apple might have made if Apple were still Apple. I hate to say stuff like that. You know, what was the name of your book on the iPod? The Perfect Thing?
Steven: The Perfect Thing. Yeah. Really, as a music player, it was perfect in the way that a lot of digital devices since aren't perfect. Remember when the flip camera came out? That was perfect too. Now it turns out we have one device, that's the perfect camera, the perfect music player, everything. Back...
Leo: I have to say, the iPhone 7 Plus is as close to that Perfect thing, at least in industrial design that the iPod was. By the way...
Steven: So you say that the Apple isn't Apple anymore?
Leo: I have to say that. You know, especially the jet black, when you hold it in your hand and you compare it to a Pixel, you realize in terms of Industrial design, they still have it, in that respect. I have to wonder what the Macbooks are up to. By the way, I have powered up my iPod, and you want to see my playlist? For rock and pop, the number one song. Hit me baby one more time. It was a great year. You drive me crazy. I'm an old man, three years later, I'm still listening.
Christina: Still great today.
Leo: I can't believe you know the year. That blows me away. Soda Pop. I don't know what that is. I guess I have some listening to do. We're going to take a break. This is fun. I love this panel. Tom Merritt is here from the daily tech news show. Great to see you, Tom. Great to see your set looks the same. Ours is changed, but yours never changes. I love it. Is that a functioning fireplace?
Tom: Yes, it is.
Leo: We have a fake fireplace here.
Tom: I haven't cleaned the chimney in a while, so I'd be careful about setting it up.
Leo: You see our fire is burning here, but it isn't exuding warmth. Steven Levy is here from Backchannel.com and stevenlevy.com. Of course Christina Warren from Gizmodo. We're thrilled to have all three of you. You can take a break, folks. As they used to say in the army, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. Our show to you today brought to you by Blue Apron. I want to talk cooking right now. It's a tough thing, you work 9 to 5. My wife and I work together. This is the question I dread. What are we going to do for dinner? It's daunting to think, now I have to plan a meal, shop for a meal, and cook for a meal. That's why, thank goodness, there's an I-Hop just around the corner. You don't want to end up at the burger king or chipotle or Apple Bee's every night. Blue Apron is the solution. Blue Apron day is my favorite day. We get home on the porch, the refrigerated box containing three different meals, delicious meals, meals we picked from the Blue Apron site, using ingredients that are fresh, never frozen not even the meat or fish, exactly the right ingredients for the recipe. You get a recipe card with it as well. You never have too much, if you need one clove of garlic you get one clove of garlic, there's no waste. And under ten dollars per meal, if you shop for the same products at a grocery store, it's going to cost you 60% more. Blue Apron... I think sometimes people look at this and say it's going to be expensive. It's more affordable. And you're... what' is that? Grilled ricotta cheese and beet sandwiches! That's amazing. I don't know what it tastes like, but that's amazing with persimmon and marinated fennel salad. These are exotic ingredients, great recipes, once you cook this, you're going to go Wow! I want to cook that again! The nice thing is, Blue Apron doesn't repeat, they guarantee you unique recipes every day for at least a year. And you're going to use unusual ingredients you've never tried before but you're going to make a wonderful meals, They have plans for a couple, plans for a family with kid friendly ingredients, and you're choosing what you want. If a beet grilled cheese sandwich doesn't sound like heaven to you, you can try crispy Chicken Milanese with warm Brussel sprouts, celery and potato salad. Or how about Thai green curry chicken and squash with jasmine rice and cashews? pork meatballs! there's always something on the menu that's delicious. blue apron's mission is to make incredible home cooking accessible to everyone, while supporting a more sustainable food system, while setting the highest standards for ingredients and building a community of home chefs. This is it. I want you to try it. Three meals free when you go to blue apron.com/twit. They deliver to 99% of the continental united states, shipping is free as well as those three meals. Blueapron.com/twit. You'll love how good it feels and tastes to create incredible home cooked meals with blue apron, and we thank them so much for their support of this week in tech! It was funny to see the surface dial. What was the name of Power Maid, you guys remember that? The little knob you got with your Mac? It was exactly the same thing.
Christina: They had a ruler and a pencil. They showed off...
Leo: They put it on the iPad, right?
Christina: Exactly. reminded me of that a little bit.
Steven: The Apple 2. Dials that came with the Apple 2?
Leo: It was a power maid, from... tom we had you muted, I don't know if you're un-muted now. You can try...
Tom: Well, I was thinking earlier, when Steven brought up the surface table that they talked about, one of the things they showed off was being able to set your drink down and have it order another one. I saw the dial was the first thing I saw of and they basically took that recognition technology and figured out an actual use for it.
Steven: They had those cool tiles. I wonder if they're going to introduce those again. You put a tile there and...
Leo: You put your camera there and it would show your pictures and you could sort through them. The only place i ever saw that was on a cruise ship and a casino. Hotel lobbies, that's all. It was all messed up because people had been putting their drinks on it, it was a bad idea. It lives on in the surface studio. We should mention that Microsoft is entering the VR realm, they announced less expensive VR headsets that are tethered, unlike the Hololens which is untethered starting at 209, and in a very typically Microsoft way, they're not going to make them, but they're partners have something I have to ask somebody what this means. Six degrees of freedom. Which sounds...? It sounds like something in the Federalist Papers. It's the ability to go left right up down, back and forth. All the axis. It's funny to watch everybody chase this market, even though I'm not convinced it's anything more than a gimmick. Christina, if anybody were into VR still it would be you.
Christina: I don't know. I think that it has potential, but I don't... right now so much of the focus has been on gaming. I'm not convinced that... there have been a lot of cases before where it could be used in medicine to help people with PTSD and there are some interesting use cases that you could do in the Industrial sector, but when it comes to regular people, I don't know if we're ever going to be at a point where people are going to be willing to put on a headset.
Leo: Microsoft sees the world in 3D. It announced its new paint 3D, which answers a question I don't think anybody is asking, which is how can I make a 3D object on my PC? Obviously business, if you're making computer graphics for movies and stuff... Is that it? I got the impression they felt kids were dying for a tool where they could make 3D objects on their PC.
Commercial: When I first heard 3D I was like it'll probably be really hard or bubble letters, but when I saw this I was like.. Woah!
Leo: It's like word art. Maybe there is a market for this. Microsoft owns Minecraft after all.
Steven: One announcement in the Apple event is that Minecraft is coming to Apple. Maybe that's Microsoft's answer to extend the role reversal of... we've been talking about the seismic reverberations when Apple made iTunes available for Windows there. Maybe this was a similar move there. Microsoft isn't so chained to its system there.
Leo: They're not, clearly. Nadel has said that. We want to be where our customers are, if we're going to make products where our customers are using iPads, and some of our best products are for iPhone and iPad.
Steven: This franchise that they're building, they're going to be very ecumenical.
Leo: I guess what I'm wondering is are we entering a future where kids want to do 3D, they want to do 3D printing? Microsoft would love a cadre of young people who could design products for Hololens and the new Microsoft Holographic Interface. You can't use it now, but eventually you'll be able to interact with Windows in a very virtual or augmented reality way. That's going to be built in the next version of Windows, so maybe it's Microsoft saying you need to learn these skills because we need you to write the next generation of Operating systems.
Tom: There's a ton of VR headsets, Microsoft took some time to announce a bunch of cheaper VR headsets, the ones that have phones that you put in them are obviously more popular right now, but that will change, and Microsoft is saying we're the place where you can design stuff for that universe, you guys that are young are already designing stuff for the Minecraft universe, and we got the Hololens coming out which we think will be a huge hit eventually, so we need a tool to design for that universe.
Leo: Yeah. All right. Enough of Apple and Microsoft. I'm sick of them both. I'm not, I can't wait to get both my hardware. Christina, you don't have the OLED yet.
Christina: I do not. I just have the base model. I played with the OLED.
Leo: You thought it was great?
Christina: I thought it was cool. Is it a gimmick or is it something regular people will want? I thought it was very cool. I was a little concerned that it would be weird to use, that you'd constantly be looking down at your keyboard and you wouldn't be able to see what was on the screen, but I was afraid it would feel unnatural, but it didn't. It felt very natural. But how useful it will actually be, I don't know. I was already thinking to myself I have so many key finding muscles trained to my memory. I don't know how that will work in an era with a touch screen.
Tom: Turn on the setting that makes that strip be function keys by default.
Leo: You can do that. A number of people saying how can I be a programmer now because I don't have an escape key or an F1 key, but they showed a picture of an escape key. You could have VIm bindings if you want.
Tom: Lenovo did this on the X10 a few years back. It was limited, it could only do four keysets, so it wasn't as programmable and it wasn't in color. It was neither a hit or not a hit. There weren't significant complaints about it, it seemed to work fine. But people didn't also rave about how it increased their productivity.
Leo: Did Art Lebidev ever release that keyboard he was going to do with all OLED keycaps? Remember that?
Christina: They did.
Leo: I thought it was...
Christina: It was very small quantities from what I understand. And super expensive. Then there was the rumor that they're going to be the 2018 MacBook.
Leo: that's kind of interesting. It would be normal keys but programmable. But to your point about muscle memory, do you want to be in that shifting landscape where a key could be whatever it wants to be? It sounds very Alice in Wonderland. A Key is whatever I intend it to be. As I said. Time to move on. Let's talk about Vine. Speaking of moving on. Three years. I bet you made some Vines in your time. I know you did, for Mashable. Didn't they have a whole Vine team?
Christina: We did have a Vine team. The person who headed up the Vine stuff at Mashable went on to work at Vine. He was the community manager at Vine for a couple years. I'm not surprised given the financial situations, but I am surprised as it seems... wow.
Leo: Russ Yusupov who created Vine and sold it to Twitter had a fairly pithy response to the announcement. Don't sell your company. Scroll down a little bit. There's a tweet. Four little words that say so much.
Steven: Would those words come from the CEO of Meerkat?
Leo: Ben Rubin has moved on. That disappeared too, they announced they were going to do a social Meerkat, and that was only a month ago.
Christina: I agree with you Steven, as much as he might be pithing don't sell your company, no one else would have bought your company. So... I don't know.
Leo: He sold it for 30 million dollars. Russ, take the money and run.
Steven: The question is could he have made it on his own? Could he have beaten Instagram?
Leo: I read an article that there was a turning point with Vine where the Vine creators got together... where was that?
Christina: This was Mike. Mike wrote this story about how the last fall Vine's top 50 creators gathered in a conference room at 1600 vine street to stage an intervention. They basically asked if Vine had paid all 18 of them, 1.2 million each, roll out several product changes and direct lines of communication, everyone would agree to produce 12 pieces of monthly original content for the app, or three vines per week.
Leo: But their complaint was Vine! You're not doing a good job, nobody is watching us anymore. What I wonder is did you guys? Who is the biggest Vine guy? King Bach. Did King Bach go on to greater things after leaving Vine?
Christina: Yeah. Snapchat.
Leo: But honestly, could it be that people got tired of six second jokey videos? It wasn't Vine's fault.
Christina: They probably had a point, they wanted product changes and things Vine could have done to talk to their creative community more and figure out ways to make it better. I think the app is 1.2 million each is an insane app.
Leo: You're not a cast of friends.
Christina: Not only that, but I think outside influence. Especially since most of them had already moved onto other services... there have been a few legitimate artists that came out of Vine. Sean Mendez was a musician and a Vine star. He opened for Taylor Swift last year on her World tour. That's few and far between.
Steven: WAs it six seconds long?
Christina: I interviewed him. I'll be honest with you. I met the kid and my internal response was yeah, good luck with all that. I was wrong. He's gone on to be very successful. There were a number of musicians that were making six second musical things. People would hear bits of what they were doing and they gained audiences that way. To your point, Leo, I think that the nature of the product, you can do a lot of humor and it was good, and there was certain content there that was very big in the meme community. But the problem with Vine for companies like Twitter is two fold. One, you can't guarantee the stream of content that people come in that people are going to watch it. The bigger problem is something like Instagram or Snapchat or even YouTube to a lesser extent, everybody feels like they can upload, you don't have to have an inherent talent to be able to get something out, everybody can take out a phone and post it on Instagram and share it with your friends and family. To be good at Vine, it's very hard to do.
Leo: It's also a specialized skill that may not translate to any other platform.
Tom: It was a launch platform. If you look at a majority of the Vine stars they were musical. They all made it big by moving to another platform. That was one of the most interesting parts of that story was that Youtube, which is usually getting flak from creators for not supporting them enough or blocking them with content were getting pointed out as the example. Vine you need to do what YouTube is doing, giving us money, helping support us. While that makes perfect sense for YouTube, I don't think it did make sense for Vine.
Leo: Vine isn't monetizing in the same way or at all.
Tom: It's ephemeral content.
Leo: That's the question. What does this portend for Snapchat?
Steven: People are going to pay for the content and take all the advertising, that's going to be a really interesting thing to see how that plays out.
Leo: It ended up being a big thing for Snapchat.
Christina: Some of the bigger Vine people are big on Snapchat, and if you get a verification with Snapchat and your own custom emoji, they will run ads on your stories. When I look at Kylie Jenner's snapchat as I do every day, genuinely everyone should. It's amazing to look at. It's amazing to see what youth is into. The people who are getting tremendous amount of views are bringing in money that way. But they could never do that on Vine. They've had a difficult time monetizing as well as everybody else in their space.
Leo: As always.
Tim: Snapchat has the filters that people use all the time. Those filters are always sponsored.
Leo: right. Vines stay on Vine. But Snapchat filter pictures are everywhere else. They're all over Instagram, everywhere.
Tom: Vine, the product that launches is still the product at the end. They didn't expand it.
Christina: They made it so you could upload other video early on, you had to actually record with your phone camera, so when Mashable was doing Vine content in house, that was tremendously difficult because we would have to have Jeremy who would sit and spend hours and hours to do stop motion stuff and they would have to do it all with his camera. It was very primitive. They did add more stuff, they uploaded different video and audio, but that came late. Again, that's still very specialized. Something like YouTube you have more options, even with live stuff. There are a lot more options.
Leo: Is it a larger story, really? Because Twitter cut 9% of its workforce. Vince was a part of all this. Clearly, if you can't monetize, Vine is going to go. Twitter is trying to show profitability...
Christina: They're trying to get sold.
Tom: Most of it is trying to get sold. Everyone but Jack Dorsey is trying to get sold.
Leo: Jack just wants to make money. It's going to be difficult to sell... there's a lot of road blocks to Twitter...
Steven: As it turns out the biggest problem they have in selling now is the troll problem.
Leo: Is that true? Mark Benioff said that... Disney reportedly said that. They didn't say it publicly.
Christina: I trust Bloomberg's reporting on that.
Leo: They're good. And that makes sense, especially for a brand like Disney. You don't want to be tarred with the troll brand Twitter brings to the table. But I have to think the real issue is $2.5-billion dollars in revenue and zero profitability.
Christina: Yea, and I think that, you know they have—Vine, if you look at it, is always a very different core product than Twitter's core product. You know Twitter is all about the now and instantaneous and Vine was fun and certainly there are a lot of Vines that I've enjoyed over the years and a lot of people who made really good content. And I think that the community they built there, the kind of outpouring of the people that created are leaving, that's interesting. It's always interesting to see communities get shut down and we haven't seen one that was this big so to speak, shudder in this way in quite some time. That's interesting. But I think that the two products were very different. And if you're a company who you're trying to get sold or you're trying to become profitable, you've got to look at what your core strengths are.
Leo: You cut off the dead limbs and that was a dead limb if ever there was one.
Christina: Yea. I mean it was always run sort of as a startup inside of Twitter anyway. They had their own offices. And it was different.
Leo: So after Disney and Google and Salesforce and everybody else kind of withdrew from buying Twitter, the conventional wisdom was, "Oh, that's not a problem. Some investor group will come along with the "cajones" to fire enough people to make it profitable. And that hasn't, that doesn't seem to have been materialized. Have any of you heard of any inkling that somebody might be sniffing around? It seems like nobody is.
Tom: Just the rumor that Disney was back interested and that lasted for half a day before it went away.
Steven: Well I think there's a perpetual appeal for Google. This dance has been going on for many years because obviously it's very valuable, real-time information that could be of great use to Google if the price was right. Facebook—
Leo: Are they just waiting for the stock to tank or?
Steven: Well I don't know. For Google in particular, there could be a regulation issue there when they bought it but then again, it got so weak they could argue, "Look, no one else wants this thing?"
Leo: We're saving it.
Steven: Yea, we're saving jobs or whatever.
Leo: And it's not like Google—
Steven: In terms of the profitability, you know Twitter has actually done a fairly good job monetization. Adam Bane, who's the business mind of Twitter, has done a fantastic job. The problem is, because it's not growing, then Wall Street isn't tolerating these losses that come through. And most of the losses, if it wasn't for the money they pay out for options in terms of the compensation, things like that, it probably would be profitable or they could jiggle the numbers to make it profitable. The problem has always been for the last couple of years, just there's a lack of growth thing.
Leo: Stagnant growth.
Steven: Last quarter was actually their best growth quarter in a while. It wasn't gang busters but it was moving the needle there. And you look at the impact that Twitter has on this election and how big a story it is. And you can't say that Twitter isn't in some sense an amazing company.
Leo: I like the idea that Donald Trump puts together Trump.tv and buys Twitter as his social arm. I love this idea. I want to see this happen.
Christina: Ok, Donald doesn't actually have that much money, but—
Leo: No, but he doesn't need money. He gets people. People.
Christina: Sure, sure. But don't you think, Steven, I mean I agree with what you're saying and Twitter's certainly very important, but don't you think that the fact that Twitter has been so crucial to this election and has been such a big part of the conversation, and it's arguably more relevant now than it's ever been in social media discourse and it only—the growth was only what it was, doesn't that, I mean I think—
Leo: You know why? You know why? Because it's only us that see Twitter as being—it's a small, slice of society.
Christina: Well that's my point. I mean I've said this many times. I mean I love Twitter and I've built a lot of my career because of Twitter but don't you think though, I mean I think that maybe the problem when they went public and certainly with their expectations in their roadshow is that they could have this growth trajectory that you've seen with Snapchat and with Facebook and with Instagram and with other properties. But it's just not ever going to be bigger than 300-million people. I mean I think it's just reached the number of people it's going to reach.
Tom: And that's what the board and the stockholders are saying when they want to sell is, "This needs to go to somebody who can use that as it is. Let's cash out." And Jack Dorsey is saying, "No, let's lean into that. Let's become a platform that—sure, it only has 300-million monthly active users, but everyone consumes it. Everyone looks at it." So those are the 2 bets. I'm not saying I know which one is the better way to go, but it's not unreasonable to think that Dorsey's right, that he can turn this into a new kind of live event platform that people consume passively.
Steven: When did 300-million people become like a total loser.
Christina: I don't think it's a loser at all. I just think that's the cap of where it is. It's not to say that 300-million is small but that's as big as it's going to get.
Leo: First of all, half of those people are fake. I think that the real number is somewhat less than 300-million.
Christina: Ok, let's assume that. I don't actually think that's true but let's say it's 150-million. That would still be tremendous. Fundamentally I think that whoever buys Twitter or if Twitter stays independent, whatever happens, they have to focus on the fact that the days of growth, they are never going to, it's never going to be a billion-user entity. It's just not. And that's ok. It doesn't have to be. But I think that the fact that this election, when it's been used by one of, by both presidential candidates, but especially used by one as basically his central way of communicating directly with people has become a crucial part of discourse. And the growth was only like 3% and that was their best quarter in years says that no matter how important it might be, and no matter how good that that number might be, like from a macro level, that's just as big as the company's ever going to get. And the people who are making these decisions like are going to have to make the decision, I think they just need to focus on the fact that this is never going to be a 500-million to—
Leo: Well what if we stipulate that that's a big enough number to be valuable and that in the last few months Dorsey has shown that Twitter can become a media platform in a very interesting way. I think November 8th I'll probably going to be watching Twitter as closely as I've watched any television network, right?
Tom: But you're not going to be watching Twitter. Is it BuzzFeed or Bloomberg? I can't remember which one.
Leo: Well I'll be watching their feed on Twitter.
Tom: Yea, it's BuzzFeed, ok.
Leo: But that's on Twitter's website, right? I mean that has value I think. I think Dorsey has made some very significant changes that are probably the right direction.
Tom: I think he's got the right idea that Twitter is essentially a participatory broadcast platform. And that people are missing that it's not either one. It's not a broadcast platform. It's not a social network. It's a blend of the 2. The question is, can he pull that off to not only keep it as a business, but make it attractive to advertisers and other monetization opportunities?
Leo: Well he may get the chance because I don't see anybody getting in line to buy the thing. But maybe there's behind the scenes. You're right, Steven. Google should buy it.
Steven: Google has been talking just like a number of times. I've talked to any number of people at Google over the years and at one point it was like a billion dollars. At another point it was 10-billion dollars. And the discussion always went, and there were some people who wanted to buy it and some people said no. And again, at one point anything Google did was subject to huge regulations. Who's to say what would happen if Google—
Leo: Alphabet. Alphabet should buy it.
Steven: Alphabet. Yea, right.
Leo: Maybe that's different.
Steven: Yea, well it is different.
Leo: It would wind up with a Chinese wall between it.
Steven: It would wind up at Google. It would be crazy if Google were to buy or if Alphabet were to buy it, it would have to be Google or else it wouldn't be—
Tom: You could put it with YouTube even.
Leo: Yea, that's interesting.
Christina: Yea, actually that would be really smart.
Leo: Look at Twitch. Twitch is essentially that with the chat and the video at the same time. That would be a very interesting play. YouTube, Twitch is a social network. In fact that was the other thing at the Microsoft announcement I thought was very interesting, announcing essentially a Twitch competitor.
Christina: Beam, they said that.
Steven: So maybe Amazon should buy it and—
Leo: Be on Twitch. Although do they need it? They already have the chat. They already have that hybrid platform you were talking about, Tom. Which I should mention, Steven has written the book for what Google's thinking called Inside the Plex and I think—
Christina: Great book.
Leo: It's the book. And I think Steven probably had better access into Google than anybody. We learned so much about what was going on Inside the Plex, Steven's book. And I presume you still have good contacts in there.
Steven: Well, you know, I do talk to people. No one's told me about the pull the trigger on Twitter. They probably should get fired if they did tell me. But—
Leo: And probably—
Steven: I think that it's not a zero chance that Google wants Twitter.
Leo: And with the stock in freefall, you'd be foolish to bid too soon. Might just watch.
Tom: Why not Verizon?
Leo: (Laughing) Why not?
Tom: Well they want ad tech so they can get analytics.
Christina: That would be really good ad tech. They also would have a customer service platform that they could sell out.
Tom: And a media platform to go with TechCrunch.
Christina: Exactly. And Yahoo and yea.
Leo: And I'll tell you one thing. If Verizon buys Twitter, that's the end of Twitter. Incidentally, Twitter's stock price has stabilized since October 7th so can't wait much longer, Google.
Tom: Flatlined would be another word for it.
Leo: Stabilized, flatlined, you know. It's a difference amongst friends. Let's take a break. Great panel. Steven Levy from Back Channel, from Gizmodo of course it's Christina Warren, @film_girl and from The Daily Tech News Show, Dailytechheadlines.com, Tom Merritt.
Leo: Our show today brought to you by Braintree. If you're a mobile app developer you know that payments, the payment platform is key. That's how you make your money. And what you want, what do you want? Well, you want something your users love that you feel comfortable with, that pays fast, that has fraud protection. Most importantly, that you don't have to write. And that's what's so great about Braintree. Braintree integrates with just a few lines of code into your app. It supports every platform. It's easy to do. And if you need any references, Braintree's what Uber uses. Braintree's what Lyft uses. Braintree's what Airbnb and Hotels Tonight uses. If competitors use the same product for their payment platform, you've got to think this is the one. GitHub uses it. You've used it. Why not use that payment solution, that simple solution that helped them all become what they are today. Braintree makes payments so fast, easy, so seamless. And the nice thing is you're ready to accept everything. PayPal of course, Venmo of course, credit cards of course, Apple Pay, Android Pay, even Bitcoin with one check of the box. And when the next big thing comes along, boom, it's easy. No recoding, it's easy for you. It's the best way. Fast payouts, continuous support. You're ready whether it's your first dollar or your billionth dollar, you'll see fewer abandoned carts and more sales with Braintree's best in class mobile checkout experience. It's a full stack payment solution, works with Android, works with iOS, works with Java Script, works in every language you like. Single integration, cross platform, superior fraud protection, customer service, fast payouts. What I don't understand is why aren't you going right now to Braintreepayments.com/twit? Braintreepayments.com/twit. We thank them so much for their support for this podcast.
Leo: It was a great week. There was a lot to talk about. I got up very early in the morning to cover Microsoft's announcements. You probably didn't, but don't worry. We have a small motion picture we've made that dramatizes the events of the week. Watch.
Narrator: Previously on TWiT.
Megan Morrone: But I'm still confused about the Thunderbolt ports. Though could I, like this regular USB, will that fit in the Thunderbolt or do I have to get a—
Jason Howell: No, and those ports are multi-function ports so they do all of your other things, as long as you have the dongle to do it.
Megan: Like my iPhone 7, why didn't it ship with a USB-C? Like, what?
Jason: That's a great question. That's one thing that you're going to need to a dongle for.
Narrator: Know How...
Father Robert Ballecer: Today on Know How...
Patrick Delahanty: Happy freakin' Halloween.
Fr. Robert: You are a master at cosplay. You go to all these cons.
Patrick: Yea, I've picked up a few tricks and techniques along the way. And I'll show a few of them here today.
Narrator: TWiT Live Specials...
Megan: I'm here in San Francisco for Pepcom's Holiday Spectacular. We saw all kinds of gadgets that you might want to buy for others that you probably want to buy for yourself. A lot of internet connected things for your pets, for your sleeping, for your weight lifting, exercise, a lot of great things.
Male: Airbar is a sensor. Attach it to your current laptop and instantly it becomes a touch enabled device.
Narrator: TWiT. It's time to see Leo in the cat suit.
Fr. Robert: Of course, folks, when you do take this out of the box, it helps not to do this.
Patrick: You must be terrible with Christmas lights.
Fr. Robert: I am really bad. That's why I just replace them every year.
Patrick: Upcoming Know How, untangling Christmas lights.
Leo: Coming up next week, a big week again and we've got the latest.
Jason: Hey, thanks, Leo. Here's a look at just a few of the stories we'll be watching in the week ahead. The long awaited, at least by me, Lenovo Fab 2 Pro is scheduled to go on sale starting Tuesday, November 1st. The phone is the first commercial phone to be touting Google's Project Tango technology that allows users to create 3D maps of their environments with special sensors on the device. Also on November 1st, Microsoft is launching Minecraft Education Edition officially, features a classroom mode so teachers can control the action in the game as a platform for teaching logical and critical thinking concepts to students using, what else, Minecraft! On Wednesday, November 2nd, Microsoft is holding an event focused on its Office Suite where it's expected to introduce Microsoft Teams. That's the company's take on messaging for teams that will compete in the same space as Slack. On Friday, November 4th, Google begins shipping its Google Home devices to customers who preordered on the site after it was officially announced last month. Voice assistant appliance is Google's take on the Amazon Echo. And finally, Xiaomi begins to show its crazy concept phone, the Mi Mix in China on the 4th with a nearly invisible bezel and acrylic body. The phone was designed by famous designer Phillipe Starke who once designed Steve Jobs' luxury yacht and is his first foray into the smartphone design world. Megan Morrone and I will cover all of this and a whole lot more all next week on Tech News Today. We do it each and every week at 4:00 PM Pacific. That's a look at the week ahead. Back to you, Leo.
Leo: Oh, crap. My checkbook is still steaming from last week and now all of that. Thank you, Jason Howell. Tech News Today, Monday through Friday, 4:00 PM Pacific, 7:00 PM Eastern, 2300 UTC on TWiT. Tom Merritt, admit it. You almost started the week ahead the minute I said that.
Tom: Well, no, no.
Leo: Not at all (laughing).
Tom: But then I don't have it written down.
Leo: For years, Tom did that.
Tom: I would have started but I wouldn't have continued. It would have been very embarrassing for all of us.
Leo: I don't know what's coming up. Isn't it nice to not to have to worry and just cover the news as it emerges instead of thinking ahead?
Tom: Yea, definitely.
Leo: About what there is to say. You have the Google Home, right, Steven? You said you have it.
Steven: Yes, I do. Yes, I do.
Leo: Have you had enough time playing with it to get a sense?
Steven: Not really. We're just having exploratory conversations.
Leo: Yea. It's the same as the Pixel Assistant?
Steven: I think you know, I'm not quite sure about that. It's got these extra microphones and things like that.
Leo: Can it hear you now?
Steven: Not quite. It's a little out of range there. I can shout.
Leo: Because I was going to ask you to say—
Steven: Ok, Google.
Leo: Do you have to say that now?
Steven: Yea, you have to say, "Ok, Google." It's got an ear up.
Leo: Say, "I'm feeling lucky." See what happens.
Steven: (Laughing) it's not listening to me in any case.
Leo: You know what happens on the phone when you say "I'm feeling lucky."
Steven: I have a closer Echo. I could ask that to talk to Google.
Leo: No, I know what the Echo can do.
Steven: Actually I should get Home to talk to Echo.
Leo: Are you going to—you're going to be one of those people, and I think I'm going to be one of those people that you have to decide which device to trigger at any given time.
Steven: You know, all of us are going to be in that position. We're all, whether for phones or whatever, we're all going to have different assistants there, whether it's Viv or Samsung phone or you know, the Google Assistant, or Cortana or Siri there, they're all going to—some of them are going to do different things than other ones so we're going to have to figure out, you know, who's going to do this there. Maybe you could just ask them and say, "Ok, jump ball. Who orders me the Uber here?"
Leo: This is as bad as the situation right now with smart TV appliances where you have to have more than one because no one, no Roku—Roku can't play iTunes and iTunes can't play Amazon and it's just annoying as hell. Can we just, I want one virtual assistant I can talk to that learns—because you want to use one regularly so it will learn your habits and your needs and your interests.
Steven: But it comes down to who's API is going to be more open there. They are so—right now, Amazon is leading the API sweepstakes, Leo. They have more people using it. Apple's trying to open up a little more. You know, Siri actually, it's funny. After a couple of years, Siri had fewer outside parties using its platform than it did when Apple bought the app.
Leo: Yea, Open Table used to work with Siri and then Apple bought it.
Steven: Yea, well now it does again. But then the other one, these guys who left Apple literally the day that Siri was launched, the day Steve Jobs died. They did this thing called Viv. I did a cute story about it for Wired and Samsung bought them a couple of weeks ago.
Leo: Right, right.
Steven: So that's going to be the Samsung assistant there and that's the one that I think is going to be the most open because anyone can just write to them and it's going to be an easy process to get integrated, the whole thing. And you're not going to have to know like you do with the Amazon, with the Echo, with the Alexa what's there in order to ask for it. It will just be part of one, big system there and the 3rd parties will be you know, woven into the one. So picture your iPhone, your iOS device with all the apps, but no app screen. It just knows which app to get called on.
Leo: That's the ideal, isn't it? That's what Google and Apple both want to do. But will Viv require Samsung?
Steven: What? Pardon?
Leo: Viv is going to require Samsung hardware though.
Steven: Of course. It's going to be a Samsung specific thing.
Tom: Well, if I remember right from your article, Steven, Samsung is using it but they're leaving Viv as its own division, right? So they will be able to market it to other companies.
Steven: Yea but they're not—they didn't buy it to give it to the world. They bought it because you know, they're at a disadvantage because in order to have this thing, you really have to own the hardware there, right? And to build into the hardware so Google and Apple have the advantage. They can build their assistant in. Microsoft has Cortana but they don't have a phone. So Cortana is never going to be part of our lives to a really deep degree. Theirs is no Microsoft phone.
Tom: And even if Viv is open to others—
Steven: Same with Facebook. The same is with Facebook, it couldn't work with its Facebook home because they don't own a phone.
Tom: And even if Viv is opened up to other hardware, Google's not going to make Viv, allow you to make Viv the default. Apple certainly isn't going to allow iOS to make it the default.
Steven: But the Samsung Android phones can do it.
Leo: Yea, I was so excited that I wouldn't have to buy anymore Samsung phones after the Note 7 disaster. Now you're telling me I'm going to be back in the market. They did say they're going to do the Note 8, right? Or is that—
Steven: The first command you learn is, "Viv, don't catch fire, please."
Leo: (Laughing) Viv, extinguish, extinguish.
Tom: The Galaxy S7 has never had that problem.
Christina: No they didn't. And I still, I would still be surprised if the Note name survived. I know that the Korean press release mentioned about the refund that they were giving to Korean users basically to say, "Hey—"
Leo: Half off a Note 8 if you have turned in your Note 7.
Christina: Exactly. Precisely. But I don't know, something tells me that branding might not be able to recover, especially with how much money they're continuing to have to lose. All their mobile profits were wiped out expectedly. I mean the thing was recalled.
Leo: You make an exploding phone, things go bad.
Christina: I mean honestly if they were a smaller company and weren't already so successful and so good at other things, then this could have been the sort of thing that could have been the end for them. So I mean that's the upside. Steven, did you know like when you talked—I don't know if you've heard anything from the Viv guys or from Samsung, do they have any plans of integrating that with the Smart Homes? Not the Smart Home, the Smart Things stuff because—
Leo: Oh yea, Samsung also bought Smart Things, didn't they?
Christina: Because that would be interesting where you've got all these internet of things stuff, you know, the Smart Things, and that has become a decent hub. Having that and Viv integration could be really, really compelling.
Steven: No, I haven't spoken to them about that but it certainly would be reasonable to assume that if Samsung knows what it's doing, that those will be among the first things to be integrated into the platform.
Leo: Right now you can actually use your Echo to control your Smart Things hub.
Leo: And that's to what you said, Steven, that the openness of the Amazon platform.
Steven: I actually, I talked to the new CEO of Nest recently and you know, they want to be everything there. So you know, you see that they're on Alexa. So before they got on Google Home, before Google Home was launched, you could control your Nest through Alexa. And he says, "This is part of the Alphabet ethos now that it doesn't have to be Alphabet first. We don't have to play with our partners or our cousins or brothers, whatever you want to call them." Of the other bets they call them. Subsidiaries. They can just go and succeed on third parties as well as with the other bets.
Tom: They'll let anyone on the Amazon API though. I actually go Daily Tech Headlines on there.
Leo: Do you really? And is it messy?
Tom: No, it was easy.
Leo: It was easy.
Leo: You know that's fine, but what about the poor consumer who is now in this Tower of Babel with multiple devices and multiple syntaxes? It doesn't seem like a solution. I think you run the risk of such fragmentation, that nothing wins.
Steven: So if I want to listen to your headlines, what do I have to say to Alexa? Do I have to ask for them specifically?
Leo: We're on the—yea, so there's a couple of things. Oh, you're asking Tom. Go ahead and tell him, Tom.
Tom: For either one you say add, in my case, Daily Tech Headlines, add Daily Tech Headlines to Flash Briefing. That's it.
Leo: Yea. Or add TWiT.
Tom: You have to say her name first, but I'm trying not to do that.
Leo: We're trying not to. Say hey Echo. Although I set my Echo to answer to Echo so my Echo's now adding Daily Tech Headlines which is fine with me. TWiT is also on it. In fact this show will probably be on Flash Briefing tomorrow morning, parts of this show. A small part of this show because you really wouldn't want a 2 hour flash briefing.
Tom: Well yea, mine's 7 minutes and they're like, "Well, we prefer 5 but ok."
Leo: They want it short. Yea, they want it short. As it should be really, because you have multiple sources on there. And I'm sure it's true for your show as well as ours, you can use TuneIn to listen to any of our TWiT shows, the podcasts on there.
Leo: But again, if you're a consumer, it's bewildering. And I don't see any one—yes, we can say as geeks, oh, this one's better than that one. But I don't see one so far a head and shoulders above that we're going to avoid this fragmentation problem. And I think it could kill the whole category.
Christina: I think it's always been the challenge with this stuff, right, is having to figure out how it all works together and also as you said, making sure people aren't afraid of jumping in. But I do think that's why products like Google Home and the Echo are important. I got my mom an Echo for Mother's Day and she loves it. They don't have Smart Homes Things in the house but she can pull up Audible and Spotify from her Echo. And so it's compelling and it's one of those things that maybe for Christmas, I'll get them some smart locks or get her a Phillips Hue system or something.
Leo: Start slow. It's a wedge.
Christina: Precisely. But now it's already part of her house. She's used to talking to it. She likes it and it's something that she can use.
Leo: We taught our in-laws, they're in their 70s. They only needed one command. Echo, play Elvis. And they're happy. They're happy. That's all. And they're amazed by the way. Does the Google Home speaker sound better, Steven? The Echo speaker's a little disappointing but supposedly the Google Home speaker is better.
Steven: One thing I was going to do today, I never got around to it of course, was to use the Google audio device. What's it called? Chrome something?
Christina: Yea, the Chromecast audio?
Steven: Yea, yea, attach that to my speaker. So—
Leo: So then you can command your speakers from the Home.
Steven: Yea, I have an Echo Dot that's connected to a Bluetooth speaker and with this you could do the same thing with the Home. You can make it sound good.
Leo: And early next year, have you tried this yet Christina? Sonos integration's coming for the Echo.
Christina: Yes, I got to see a preview of that a few weeks ago. That's awesome. And I think that's a match made in heaven because I have a Sonos system. I also have an Echo and I have an Echo Dot and to be able to control that is fantastic. And that's a niche audience for sure, but I think that it's the perfect sort of niche thing that can expand this sort of thing and you can kind of create—I mean being able to talk to your Sonos, why not? Why wouldn't you want to?
Leo: So we watched the demo of course when Google announced it, or Amazon—I'm sorry, Sonos. I mean whoever. You see the problem? You see the problem here?
Leo: (Laughing) When Amazon I guess it was announced it, it wasn't clear what kinds of commands you could give. Could I say to my Echo, I want to listen to Elvis in the living room?
Leo: And can I, do I have access to all my Sonos subscriptions from the Echo? Can I say on Spotify? On TuneIn?
Christina: I'm pretty sure yes, but you might have to say, "On my Sonos." I'm not 1000% positive about that. The demo I had didn't go that in depth and it won't be in beta until like I think the end of the year and it will be out early next year. But I believe that that's the plan is to be able to have close to the full range of functionality, to be able to control your Sonos with your voice through your Echo which is fantastic.
Leo: And yea, I think this is all still very bewildering. It's as bad—you know, home automation never took off for exactly the same problem. Fragmentation, complicated.
Steven: Well it's a lot easier now. Home automation did not have a voice recognition and understanding that we have now. So I think you—one thing now we're taking for granted already is how well these companies have done in pushing voice recognition and language understanding. It's going to get better. After the Google event I went to Google looking for an angle no one else might have had and I talked to one of their top scientists in voice understanding there. And he was super excited because he felt that they're going to get data about how people talk and ask computer systems like this to do things that they've never had before. He actually calls this period of the next 2 years the transition because he feels they're going to get enough data to have a tipping point in how well Google can understand the way people talk when the ask for things there. So he's super excited that this thing in the home is actually a Trojan Horse that gathers data. Not personal data, but aggregate data about how people ask for things and they'll be able to use their neural nets and deep learning systems to improve the way they understand language.
Leo: That's how Google operates. That's what they did with GOOG-411, it was really just a game. Is Google not best positioned to do this? Like can Amazon do something similar? No, I think not.
Steven: No one touches Google when it comes to this AI stuff. And they've got a deep mind over there in London doing amazing things. They came out with a paper last week about how they were using their deep learning systems to create cryptography systems. So it's sort of amazing. They've created a cryptosystem by these neural nets. But no one knows how it works. So it's a little scary.
Leo: Wow. Oh, that's a bad trend.
Tom: They had Alice, Bob and Eve AIs and they tasked each one of them with going out—like Alice and Bob had to talk to each other but they weren't given an encryption scheme and Eve had to try to intercept the message and decrypt it. And that's all they did. Alice and Bob were able to talk and Eve couldn't break in. And they don't know what the encryption scheme was.
Leo: Oh, it's begun. That is actually terrifying. They're starting to talk to each other and we have no idea how.
Tom: They're not only starting to talk to each other, but they're encrypting it so we can't tell what they're saying.
Leo: We can't hear it and we have no idea what they're doing. That is the most important story of the week.
Steven: And of course I asked Google, "let me talk to these guys." And they said, "We're not making them available yet."
Leo: Yea, no kidding.
Tom: They're not actually people.
Leo: It's Bob and—aye, aye, aye. Let's take a break. Now I'm literally terrified. That is the worst news of all. Well, you know, that's to me, that's the singularity. The singularity was when machines can design themselves, right? Because then it accelerates it at a pace that's far faster than a human can keep up with. This is the beginning. Machines designing their own encryption protocol and even they can't understand what happens. No human can understand. That's terrifying. And I'm not joking. All right, we're going to take a break. Maybe I'm joking a little. We got a great panel. Lots more to talk about but I have to get everybody out of here before the Eagles hit the field, so let's talk about Texture.
Leo: If you like magazines—who doesn't? When Steven wrote for Newsweek, that was a religious read every single week. And there's still great writing happening in Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. And you know, Nick Bilton's moved to Vanity Fair. That's where you read his amazing pieces. But who wants to buy dead trees or worse, subscribe to dead trees? I mean how silly is that, the idea that you give somebody some money and every month they're going to kill a bunch of trees and send them to your house with stuff on it. Why do that when you can get Texture? Texture is like Netflix for magazines. 200+ magazines for one low monthly rate. Everything you want. I mean, People, US, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan. See, I'm not going to subscribe to Cosmo. That would be embarrassing. But I do like to take the sex quiz every month and so now I can. Rolling Stone, there's always one great article in Rolling Stone and every month I want to read it. I don't have to subscribe anymore. Sports Illustrated, National Geographic. You know when you're looking at it on your iPad or your Android device or your phone, and you're looking at these great photo essays in National Geographic, they come to life on your iPad and they're beautiful, much better than some screen print in a magazine. Even more, they can give you video. There's features they can add over and above what they can put in the magazine. Audio and video extras. Plus you get every single page in the current newsstand edition and back editions. You can share it. I love this. Lisa has our Texture subscription but you can put it on up to 5 devices. So I can put it on my iPad. She can put it on her iPad. We can read our magazines in peace. I read Sports Illustrated, she reads The Atlantic. It works out great. I want you to try it free. Immediate access to all the top magazines, back issues, bonus video content, everything free at Texture.com/twit. T-E-X-T-U-R-E.com/twit. You'll get unlimited access to over 200 of the world's best magazines. Everything from cooking magazines to health magazines. Of course Wired's in there. There's always a great story in Wired. Of course Interview is in there. All the best magazines. Texture.com/twit. We flew to Gainesville for a day yesterday, or Friday, and Texture was a great lifesaver. I get on a plane, I love having that Texture app there. You download them and they're all there.
Leo: Let's see. I don't know where to go here. I'm still stunned by this cryptographic story. How about Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users By Race. Pro Publica was able to place an ad on Facebook and among the choices, the demographics. Exclude people who match at least one of the following: African American, Asian American or Hispanic. Is that racist or is that just algorithms? Nobody wants to touch it.
Christina: Well according to some of the people that Pro Publica spoke to, it seemed like it might violate certain laws because there are certain things out there that you can't.
Tom: Yea, like the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Christina: Exactly. That's the one. Thank you, thank you, Tom. So that's interesting. It's also interesting that you can exclude all these other races but you can't exclude Caucasian people which is very odd.
Leo: That's racist right there, isn't it?
Christina: Well I mean I think if you're really trying to target a specific demographic, if that's what they're trying to give you, that's the argument for this sort of thing, if you're trying to say I want to target—
Leo: Facebook says, "We prohibit advertisers from using those options for discrimination."
Christina: Right, because they can really tell. They can really tell. They're doing a bang up job of that.
Tom: What they're saying is, if we see an ad for housing that excludes African Americans, we will kill that ad.
Leo: It's an interesting question because the Civil Rights Act for instance says you can't print or publish notices or advertisements indicating a preference based on race. But that's not what's happening in this ad. I mean obviously if you put in the ad only whites can apply, that would be illegal. But I imagine in 1964 they didn't really contemplate and advertising system that would allow you to select which race would see the ad.
Christina: Right. And I guess there is something to be said about the fact that very frequently you have different commercials or cuts, movie trailers or cuts are cut differently depending on what demographic and what type of people they think are going to see those things. And that's a common advertising trick. And there's nothing wrong I don' t think with trying to market to a specific type of audience. I think that the big question is are you doing that by excluding or in some way holding back other audiences. So I don't know. I think it's interesting. It's certainly with all the other kind of issues that Facebook has faced with questions of bias it's certainly not a great look.
Leo: Pro Publica went to the New York Times and said the New York Times has policies in place that prohibit this. But then they said, "We also reject ads that contain too many white people." So—(laughing).
Tom: The other interesting thing about Facebook is what they're doing is ethnic affinity because you don't state your ethnicity on Facebook. What they're doing is deducing it.
Leo: Oh, just your affinity.
Tom: No, they're deducing it from what you do. They're saying, "Our algorithm notices that you like these kinds of things. You talk to these kinds of people."
Leo: So it's not really about your race, it's about- your activities.
Tom: And so we're making a guess that you are an African American or you are Hispanic.
Leo: Right. Well I know how well that works because Facebook thinks I'm a Republican, so—because remember you can see what Facebook thought you were.
Leo: They got my—
Steven: I think you still do that. I mean clearly this is something that as through the history of Facebook, they're going to roll back. They're going to say—
Leo: Oh, sorry.
Steven: And apparently they're looking and seeing it's not being used in a discriminatory sense, they check it out. But look, Facebook is an advertising company and there's always things because it deals in such huge amounts of numbers there and micro-targeting is the advantage of their advertising system there. I'm sure how you could see how this slipped through there but it looks bad when we see it on the screen.
Tom: I know people who work in the ad agencies and this is not unusual to say, "I want to place an ad campaign. I want to hit Hispanics but I don't want to hit African-American audiences. Go buy the ad campaign." The difference is you don't have a dropdown menu to do it, you have to cobble together networks. And so seeing a dropdown menu that says, "Exclude African-Americans," yea. It causes an emotional reaction.
Steven: It's the bad optics of what translating in a friction-free way what advertisers and agencies have done for quite some time.
Leo: Kenneth Lipp writing for The Daily Beast, AT&T is Spying on Americans for Profit. This is exciting. AT&T apparently—we've known for a while that phone companies have portals for law enforcement that allows them to do, what are they called? Pen register, pen warrant requests that are not, warrantless requests, things like location, metadata and so forth. But Hemisphere is a product that AT&T developed, marketed and sells at a cost of millions of dollars per year to tax payers to access the company's treasure trove of data. And these are documents that the Daily Beast has uncovered. This is of course timely because AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner for $85-billion dollars. The real question is how much of the data massaging does AT&T do? Does it merely offer GPS coordinates and metadata or is it actually taking all the data it has, it has much more data, and massaging it, putting it together in a way that makes it more valuable to law enforcement.
Tom: It requires a subpoena, right? That's all.
Leo: Does it even require that?
Tom: Yea, I think it does.
Leo: Oh, ok. I thought you could just login and—
Christina: No, it requires a subpoena but it doesn't require like a FISA court, a warrant or a FISA court hearing. So that's why it's so problematic.
Leo: AT&T's been doing this for ages of course. We remember the whistle blower 15 years ago that told us the NSA had a special tap in the AT&T intranet. I love though, and I think this is if there's a smoking gun, it's the document that AT&T requires law enforcement clients sign which says, "If there's any way you can avoid revealing how you got this information, we'd sure appreciate it." The government agency agrees not to use the data as evidence in any judicial proceedings unless there's no other available and admissive probative evidence. In other words, can we keep this a secret just between us?
Tom: No referrals. There's no referral program.
Christina: Please don't let us know that we were the ones that might look bad to our customers.
Leo: It's between us.
Christina: They might not appreciate this.
Leo: So it's not illegal, but maybe our customers wouldn't be too happy about it. Actually then the follow-up on this, at least 17 firms according to Bloomberg are marketing this kind of intelligence agencies.
Male Reporter: Twitter shares rising today after the—
Leo: Let me pause this lovely insta-play video. Thank you, Bloomberg. Bloomberg really can't wait to get on the Twitter timeline, can they? They're just so excited.
Tom: And this is the Twitter firehouse which is I think, this is a little different than what AT&T's doing. AT&T's taking customer data that it owns and selling it based on a subpoena.
Leo: This is taking public information on Twitter, right?
Tom: And saying we're going to break it down and make it easy for you to surveil.
Leo: Right. It's still—bad optics is a great word, Steven. It's still bad optics.
Steven: Well on the other hand, I don't know if this was the week before or maybe you discussed this last week, the FCC's decision, or yea, it was the FCC, basically saying that the company's ISPs can't collect your private information without your permission. That's a huge advance for consumers. So that was actually a pretty positive thing for privacy that happened.
Leo: This is information about websites you visit which ISPs obviously have complete details on. Your mobile location information, how you use apps, all of this now requires explicit consent from subscribers before Verizon and Comcast and AT&T, those people, can sell your data. Now this is to marketers. Obviously law enforcement has complete and full access to this information.
Steven: Right, I know but I mean you know, we're being surveilled pretty thoroughly by little brother and no one has better access than the ISPs, right? So it's a way not to be surveilled by the people. And people don't have much choice about what ISP generally they use. So they have no choice how someone watching every website you visit and then marketing that information. Now they can't do that. That's just one of a number of pretty consumer friendly things this current commissioner has done. A lot of people, myself included were pretty skeptical when Wheeler who was a lobbyist, had been a lobbyist for the cable company became the head of the FCC. We thought, "What is this? What is this guy going to do?" And he actually, he turned out to be pretty good for consumers. He was the guy who fought for net neutrality and to actually make the internet come under regulatory status which a lot of people on the other side thought shouldn't happen.
Leo: I still keep wondering what his angle is. I'm sorry but I— what are you up to, Wheeler? You got—
Tom: He's got a sweet commission with Consumer Reports lined up. We know it.
Leo: And of course this is the guy that was at, it was John Oliver famously compared to giving your baby to a dingo.
Steven: Right well the dingo actually turned out to be a pretty good nanny.
Leo: Yea, he's a good nanny. Not so bad. What's his angle? He's got to be up to something. AT&T, speaking of which, will now be able to not only monitor your phone calls but what TV shows you watch. They have announced a new streaming TV service, DirecTV Now. This is all tied into the—I mean this Time Warner acquisition, and now this, we don't know when there was a rumor that it would be November 4th, in just a few days. $35-dollars for 100 channels is clearly a loss leader for AT&T. Why, why do an over the top service for $35-bucks for 100 channels when Sling charges $20-bucks for 25 channels, Sony charges $55-bucks for 100 channels. This is a grab of some kind. What is AT&T up to, Christina?
Christina: Well I mean I think that what they're up to is they see that the future is going to be in these bundles and whether it's these skinny bundles or cord cutting or whatever you want to call it that the future of their customer base is not going to be coming to them through cable subscriptions. They're going to be coming to them through kind of these Over-the-Top subscriptions. And the faster that they can get people to convert and the faster they can get people on board, the better. And if that means starting now with a loss leader until they can get better carriage rates and better agreements to make the pricing work, the better. And there was an interview, I think it was with Randall Stephenson I think he gave to Bloomberg. Or no, not Bloomberg, it was at the Golden-Sachs conference a couple of weeks ago. I guess it was last month and he made some sort of statement about how they anticipate that most of their business will be based on pure internet only plans by 2020. And this is how you get there by undercutting everybody else, by offering good bundles. Tom and I were talking before the show started, the big question is what networks are actually and what channels are actually going to be part of this. But it certainly looks really compelling to come out of the gate and say, "We have 100+ channels for $35-dollars a month." That becomes very, very compelling in a world where people are just—many people have already cut the cord but even more people are considering it and if you're considering doing that, why wouldn't you look at somebody like DirecTV, AT&T and make that move that way?
Leo: Tom of course does a cord cutting show called Cord killers and you have a great guide to cord cutting that you published as like a mini-book.
Tom: And I keep having to update because they keep launching services like this.
Leo: Well that's what's interesting. It's a clearly disruptive period and it's frustrating. I mean but isn't the big issue for cord cutters getting live locals? Isn't that the one thing at this point you can't do?
Tom: Yea, and that's what's interesting with what DirecTV's doing here because what a lot of people don't realize is if you were a satellite subscriber, you got almost all of this service already. You could watch—when I was a DirecTV subscriber, I was always impressed by the number of channels I could watch live on my tablet. I wouldn't even need the satellite if I didn't, if I didn't want to watch it on my television. And so what this is going to do is say, "You know what? We don't have to sink a lot into infrastructure. We already have permission to do this. So we can move this over. We can make less than a dollar per subscriber on it because we're trying to build market share. And we've got deals with the networks for local channels which is something that Sling is still slowly building out, PlayStation's still slowly building out and can be a big advantage for DirecTV.
Leo: Yea. PlayStation does have live locals in some markets.
Tom: In some markets, yea, exactly.
Christina: And Sling does to. It just depends. And Sling obviously, their big benefit is that they were able to get things from the Dish yields and from some of those settlements. They were able to bring things over. So you know DirecTV has that advantage too where AT&T does through DirecTV but I'm looking forward to seeing how this launches because I do think that there are a lot of people out there who are very much wanting to cut their cable subscription or are looking, if they already have, are saying I want access to more channels but I don't want to subscribe to a million different things. This as I said, I think this could be compelling depending on how it's done and what the offering is.
Steven: You have a couple of, like CBS has its own app now. You can get that Over-the-Top there. Eventually there's going to become a point where these local channels are going to realize that it's in their interests to get on these services there. Now they feel like they've got the power. They can force cable companies to pay them. But if they're going to lose a lot of viewers locally who say, "Well I'm going to go Over-the-Top. I'll look at CBS.com. I'll maybe have something else. And I'll just never watch ABC, my ABC channel. I don't want to spend an extra dollar for that. I don't like the shows too much there. I don't care about—ABC doesn't really have the sports I want or whatever." Well in that case, those same local stations might come begging to be on some of these services.
Leo: Did Comcast roll out its terabyte caps because they're worried about Over-the-Top? After all, you know, they sell premium TV services.
Christina: Yea, as the next take I think would say that that's true. I think that's probably part of it especially since they've said I think to Xfinity customers that if you subscribe to Xfinity and you are watching Xfinity video, that doesn't count towards your data cap.
Leo: Yea, you can stream over it.
Christina: Exactly. You can stream over it and that won't count towards your cap and precisely. So they were doing that a while back even before the instituted the cap. I mean I think a cynic would say that's absolutely true. I think that's probably part of it and but at the same time I'd be very surprised if Comcast doesn't at some point come out with their own skinny bundle of sorts. It's just a matter of time.
Tom: And they have one. They have one available that's Over-the-Top. It's in a few amount of markets but yea, it's probably going to go more widespread.
Christina: That's what I mean. I mean nationwide.
Tom: Yea, yea.
Leo: Clearly we need a Tom Wheeler superhero to leap into action here and fix this mess.
Tom: We need competition. If Comcast didn't have cable television, they'd still be putting in a terabyte cap and still be charging you $50-dollars extra a month for unlimited.
Leo: Because they own the internet. You have no choice.
Tom: Because they know you can't go anywhere else.
Leo: Yea, there's nowhere else to go.
Steven: Yea, and the terabyte is either going to come down or people will be streaming higher definition television and that won't be as great as it sounds.
Leo: No, they started at 250GBs. They tried that out. They went up to a terabyte but I think they see that this is a cap that's going to be important in a year, two years, three years with UHD4K and all this hi-res stuff coming down the pipe. I want to take a break because I want to be sensitive to your time, Tom, and we have one more commercial and I have a couple more terrifying stories including the delivery of 50,000 beers by autonomous truck.
Leo: But first a word—as long as we're talking about highways, about Automatic. We've talked so much about the Automatic. This is a great device. Plugs right into your OBD2 port in your car. Every car since 1996 has had. That little diagnostic port right below your steering wheel, maybe you never noticed it or if you did you thought, "Oh that's not for me. That's for the tech, the guy working at the dealership." No, that's for you. This pairs to your smartphone. You plug it right into it. It's powered by the OBD2 port. And now you know more about what's going on in your car than even that tech does. This is even better. They just introduced the Automatic Lite which is their most affordable adapter yet. Perfect if you've got a business fleet. It tracks every trip. Gas expenses, one tap integration on logging. You get the engine light, you'll know what it means. In fact what's great it says, "Here's the engine light. Here's what it is. And here's a mechanic nearby." I love it. Automatic.com. they've got of course, they've still got the Automatic Pro which gives you a 3G connection and that's subscription and fee free. You can get human help with the Pro in a crash, detects severe accidents, trained responders will call for help even if you can't. It's great if you've got teenagers. You can have geofencing. You'll know where your car is parked. You'll know where your teenagers are going. And it works with If This Then That and Expensify and Concur and a bunch of apps. You can even link your car with the Automatic to a Nest Thermostat or an Amazon Echo, and you can say, "Hey Echo, where'd I park my car?" Or, "Hey Echo, how much gas is left in the tank," before you go out to get in the car. Automatic, now the Automatic Pro and the more affordable Automatic Lite. They're available to you at Automatic.com/twit. We're even going to give you $20-bucks off the Pro if you use the offer code TWIT20 at checkout. Automatic. I love the Automatic. I love, I mean really, I love it. I had it writing every trip I took out to Evernote automatically and I would have a map. I would have much gas I used, how much it cost. And that's an eye opener. When you know you take a trip to the Costco to save 20 cents on a bag of chips and it cost you a buck twenty in gas, that's when you start to get a little bit wiser about how you're driving. You'll love it and if you've got kids you must have it. Automatic Pro, $20-bucks off with the offer code TWIT20 and the brand new Automatic Lite, the more affordable version. Great for businesses, fleets. You're going to love it. Automatic.com/twit.
Leo: A couple of stories speaking of autos. Otto, Uber's truck driving autonomous vehicles made their first delivery. Wired Magazine, Alex Davies had the story and the video. And here's a truly terrifying thing in the video. And 18-wheeler going down the highway at 55 miles an hour and there's nobody in the cab. The guy's in the back doing yoga. That is not what I want to see going down the highway. They say it's, the driver will take it. He took the beers in Fort Collins, Colorado. Got the truck. Drove the truck to the on ramp. Got on the freeway and then engaged Otto. I think the guy should be forced to sit there though. He got in the back. Look at—that's not right. It's not even legal, is it?
Tom: From what I've heard, he was surrounded by state troopers escorting him.
Leo: Oh, thank God.
Tom: It was at a low period of traffic.
Tom: Even though that video makes it look like there's a bunch of other people on the road.
Leo: Yea. 120 miles, he drove to Colorado Springs with 50,000 cans of beer.
Steven: Again, it's the optics there really. You know Google is pursuing, and these guys came from Google, the level 4 degree of autonomy which means the thing does it by itself. So on the highway, they're confident that that could happen. And it would be silly to have him sitting there because what Google has learned—
Leo: All he'll do is screw it up.
Steven: Well on the highway is, if the car needs you generally, it's too late. You know, you can't get your mind—because you'll be sitting there—
Leo: You're not paying attention.
Steven: Exactly, yea. Saying, you know, by the way, the car ahead of you just hit the brakes or something like that. Or someone is riding a bicycle on the highway and veered in front of you, it's too late to do anything about that.
Leo: I got a new—
Steven: So you need to have the truck anything that could happen on the highway and then it doesn't matter whether the driver's in the back or sleeping or whatever.
Tom: This wasn't the first run it made, either.
Leo: Oh, really?
Tom: This was the first run with Budweiser. They did a bunch of test runs.
Tom: They did a bunch of empty test runs.
Leo: Oh this is a big deal because now they're risking beer.
Christina: Well but yea, risking real products.
Leo: (Laughing) 3 LIDAR units on the cab and the trailer, RADAR bolted to the bumper and a high precision camera on the windshield. Somewhat similar to—
Steven: Did Bud pay for this? Is this like a product placement?
Tom: Oh, I'm sure.
Leo: Well the mentioned the Bud but they didn't say there was any Bud on the truck.
Tom: They went to Anheuser-Busch and I guess Anheuser-Busch came to them according to one of the stories I read and said, "We'd like to be involved somehow."
Leo: What I thought was interesting and I did not know this, I was worried about all the truck drivers who are about to lose their jobs. Apparently that's not the problem. There's far more jobs than there are people to drive. And they can't, the demand, there's a shortfall of 40,000 drivers this year and it could hit 175,000 by 2024. So maybe we do need Otto.
Steven: If you think about it, this is going to drive down the cost of the trucking companies because the trucks will be able to go 24 hours.
Christina: 24 hours, exactly.
Leo: You know what makes me sad?
Steven: So there's going to be more trucks.
Leo: You know what makes me sad?
Steven: They'll be cheaper than rail now.
Leo: We had this thing called trains. They were on rails. You didn't have to steer them.
Steven: We still have them.
Leo: You only went forward and backward. That would be a perfect autonomous thing. In fact I know many trains are autonomous. Every time I get on the subway, where is it, in Seattle, there's nobody driving. The monorail in Las Vegas, there's nobody driving. But we've abandoned our rail system for trucks and I guess—
Tom: Game Spot gave it 7 out of 10 because it was on rails.
Leo: (Laughing) By the way, the new slogan for Otto, Otto, Get Blotto. No, that's not the slogan. But anyway, there you go. I think in some ways that is a watershed moment to autonomous truck driving 120 miles. And finally, Red Matt Mullenweg's posting, Matt of course the creator of WordPress, he's pissed.
Leo: And I think rightly so. He said he sat down to use Wix which is a proprietary web platform, the Wix mobile app and he said, "Wait a minute. This is my code. This is our code." Which was open sourced, which Wix used it apparently according to Mullenweg. And he says in extreme contravention of the GPL and he says, "I'll take it as a compliment but you know what would be great? Abide by the GPL and release your source code back to the community and maybe give us a little credit." CEO of Wix is posted a response on the Wix blog and said, well, let's get rid of the ad, "We're very surprised by your post as you have so many claims against us. Wow. Dude. I did not even know that we were fighting." Ok. I thought we'd end on a high note (laughing).
Leo: Dude. I didn't even know we were fighting.
Tom: I GPL'd some other stuff. Come on.
Leo: Dude (laughing).
Christina: Did you not see? I forced the code and GitHub—
Leo: Was it GitHub, dude? All right. We're going to wrap it up. Tom has to go. Tom Merritt, thank you so much. Great to see you. Everybody should follow Tom. Daily Tech News. Support him on Patreon. Is dailytechheadlines.com the best place to go?
Leo: Dailytechnewsshow.com for the discussion show. And in fact we talked about the automatic AI's on Friday's show. Darren Kitchen gave us a nice description of how that works. Daily Tech Headlines is the new less than 10 minutes a day digest of just the essential headlines. And that's the one that's on the Amazon Echo.
Leo: Now on Alexa. Now on your Amazon Echo, yea, that's awesome. DTNS. That's all you have to remember. Thank you, Tom. Great to see you again.
Tom: Thank you, Leo. Great to be back.
Leo: The wonderful Christina Warren. She's at Gizmodo. You can follow her there. She's a senior writer and on Twitter @film_girl. Anything you want to plug, Christina? The Adele concert was fabulous.
Christina: The Adele concert was great and my review of the new MacBook, not the one with the touch bar but you know, the lower MacBook Pro will be up next week or this week I guess. So it will be up in a few days.
Leo: I will be reading that with great interest. And I suppose I'll get mine with the OLED in a couple of weeks. Steven Levy, such a thrill to have you on. We're all big fans and as always, your knowledge and eloquence is unmatched. We thank you so much for being here. Stevenlevy.com and of course backchannel.com.
Steven: Thank you and yea, have all your viewers just go on the medium and follow Back Channel. You'll see all our stuff.
Leo: I do. It's fabulous. It's fabulous. And it's free. Is it ad free? It seems like I don't see ads on there.
Steven: Actually you're going to start seeing some. You know, we're a profit making organization.
Leo: Not against it. God know, you had to sit through a few today. And yea, I want it to keep going. It's great. Great writers, great material, great research and great journalism. Thank you, Steven. Thank you, everybody.
Steven: Thank you.
Leo: We do TWiT every Saturday, I'm sorry, Sunday evening at 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern, 2200 UTC. Please tune in and watch live. Be in the chatroom if you want. You can also be in the studio. We have some great people in the studio. Thank you all for being here. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. Ken is from Ireland, the UK. Matt from LA and Christopher and Arlene from Virginia and Robert, oh, Rober. Nice to see you from Griffin, Georgia. Why does it say Walking Dead? Are you a zombie? Oh, ok (laughing). It's where they film it, Griffin, Georgia. He's been planning his trip to TWiT for 10 years. I'm glad you made it. If you want to be here, email@example.com, that's the email address. And of course you don't have to be here in person or even on the air during our stream. You can always watch and listen after the fact. All of our shows are on demand at the website twit.tv or wherever you subscribe to podcasters. iTunes will work, Stitcher, Google Music. We hope you will subscribe because we don't want you to miss an episode. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you next time! Another TWiT is in the can. Bye-bye. I've got to put on my press hat. Bye-bye. Thank you, Steven. See you later.
Steven: Thank you. See you later.
Leo: See you, Tom. Thanks for hanging out.
Tom: Nice to meet you, Steven.
Leo: Bye, Christina. Bye-bye.