This Week in Tech 602
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in tech! We've brought back one of our favorite panels from last year. Ed Bott is here, from ZD Net, Christina Warren, Devindra Hardawar from Engadget. We're going to talk about the right to repair. Apple says it's a terrible idea. I think it's a good idea. We're going to take a look at the iPhone 8 and all those fabulous rumors. Do you blame 4Chan for the way the world is today? Some people think that's a problem. Bill Gates says he has a solution, tax the robots!
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This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 562, recorded Sunday, February 19, 2017.
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It's time for TWiT: this Week in Tech! The show where we cover the week's tech news. Did I yell at you? I did. I"m sorry. I'm amped up because we got a great panel for you tonight. Joining me, all the way on the left from Alamagordo New Mexico is Ed Bott.
Ed Bott: Santa Fe. Turn left at Albuquerque. Hi, Leo.
Leo: Great to see you. For many years, one of the premier editors at Windows Magazine.. PC computing, right?
Ed: PC Computing. Before that PC world.
Leo: Loved PC computing. Are you sad to see IDG? It looks like it's going to be bought by a Chinese company.
Ed: It sounds like it's a good company that is buying that. It sounds like it's one of the best outcomes. It wasn't a great outcome, but it sounds like a pretty good one.
Leo: I think so. Somebody told me it was Chinese IDG. So they understand the culture, they want to preserve the culture, that kind of thing. Great to have you. Also here, from Mashable. Film Girl, Christina Warren.
Christina Warren: From Gizmodo.
Leo: Damnit. Can we start the show over? I'm so sorry. You used to be at Mashable, I knew you went to Gizmodo, that was months ago. I've got to keep track of this stuff. You're doing a lot of podcasts for Gizmodo, which is awesome. You want to plug them?
Christina: I do a show on my own called Rocket on Relay FM, and people want to listen to me talk about tech, me and Breanna Boo and Schwartz...
Leo: Oh that's a great show. Love that show. I forgot about that. That's one of my go to podcasts. Thank you for being here, Christina.
Christina: I love to be here! Thanks for having me.
Leo: And from Engadget, I think you're still at Engadget. Devindra Hardawar. engadget.com, great to have you.
Devindra Hardawar: Thanks for having me.
Leo: Do you talk on Rocket about Space?
Leo: Because Space X had a successful launch this morning. I loved Elon Musk's Tweet. It was just a picture of the rocket going up. They delayed it yesterday, so everybody is going, "Oh no." Then they got it up. This is going to be another ISS supply mission. It's a rocket that can be in the mood. What do you guys want to talk about? Nebraska. Let's talk about Nebraska. Nebraska is one of six states that are looking at laws to give you the right to repair: Nebraska, New York, Tennessee, Wyoming, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, and Massachusetts. The theory being you own a product, like a John Deer tractor or an iPhone, you should have the right to fix it at any fixit shop you want, including third party fix-it shops. Apple does not like this. They are now lobbying Nebraska lawmakers to kill the right-to-repair legislation saying unauthorized repair will turn the state into a Mecca for hackers. That would be a great license plate for Nebraska. Nebraska: Hacker Mecca. I don't think Nebraska will ever be a Mecca for hackers, but is there some justification for Apple not to want to get these laws passed?
Christina: I think their justification is when you have unauthorized people performing repairs, they can often do repairs that might not be the quality that Apple would want their products to be living up to, so if they repair your screen that's one thing, but other repairs, there could be problems with the phone that Apple would be responsible for.
Leo: It actually happened. Last year, there was an IOS update that fixed Error 53, and it bricked iPhones that had been repaired at third party repair shops. Apple's rationale was if you repaired it, we don't know the touch ID is still going to work properly, so we can't secure the phone, on the other hand, Kyle Wiens who has been a big advocate says of course. Ifixit, which has been a sponsor on the show in the past makes manuals and sells parts to repair stuff, says that the rationale at an independent mechanic ought to be able to bypass things like Error 53 that are designed to prevent repair. In other words, he says Apple did Error 53 to ferret out and put out of business third party repair companies. Apple has taken this seriously.
Devindra: Are we surprised? This is the company that is all about sealed boxes and not tinkering. We see other computers you can actually upgrade easily. The Mac pro has been ignored for so long! This makes a lot of sense for Apple. The bigger problem now is the touch ID stuff. If you get your screen fixed, they have to make sure everything is in line, and it's a lot tougher if independent parties do that now.
Ed: Caveat: m tour. That's always been the case, if you want to have a cheaper repair done, you want to save some money, you take the risk that it's not going to be of the quality that it would be if you went to an Apple store or an authorized repair shop. But to preemptively say it's illegal for someone... even if I own it myself, to scavenge parts, to go to a place like Swampa and buy a phone that is no longer functional and take it apart and cannibalize it for parts and use those parts myself, the point of allowing this would prevent me from doing that, which is nuts!
Christina: I agree. My main issue with Error 53 happened and then Apple ended up issuing a software update that made Error 53 no longer an issue. My issue with that wasn't so much that they said, look for the sanctity of touch ID and other stuff, we need to have repairs done a certain way. That's all well and good to say if you want this you have to go to an authorized repair center. To your point, Ed, to say you can't do this at all it should be illegal, that's insane, the secondary problem is that when you're outside of the United States, or major cities in other parts of the world, going to an authorized repair center is often difficult if not impossible. If you're one of the Error 53 cases that the guardian had written about when that issue came out, a journalist who was in a part of the world where there were not Apple stores. He needed to get his phone repaired and it had very important information on it, and then his phone is bricked. So the issue for me isn't so much what they say when they prefer people to have phones repaired by authorized places were Apple stores, it said there are plenty parts of the world where that is not a possibility. So I think this legislation has the potential to be dangerous if it were to gain acceptance. Apple stores are in most cities in the United States, but they're not everywhere, and I don't want to be in a situation where I need to have my phone repaired and I can't get anything done because I'm 4 hours away from an Apple store.
Leo: This story comes from Jason Cobler writing at Motherboard. He says he learned about it from Nebraska state senator Lydia Brash, who was visited by an Apple state Government affairs specialist. The guy didn't know that Brash is a farmer and is aware of the John Deere issue, she also works remotely for a software company in Atlanta as a background in computer science. She says I think they were surprised to learn that I knew what they were talking about. She also said there are two interpretations with Apple. This is a perfect example. One is acting in the best interest of its customers to protect their security and integrity of the phone, the other is Apple is acting in the best interest of its profits, and in this case it could be either way. This might lean you in one direction, because apparently Apple also said, take the phone part out of the bill and we'll go away. They don't care about John Deere. Brash said it's tempting, but we need to repair consumer technology too. The story they're telling is we need to be afraid of technology, she says you don't have to afraid of technology, you have to be afraid of the people who are trying to prevent you from knowing the things you know. Are these companies in it for the greater good or the greater dollar? Good going, Senator Brash. Wow. When we talked to Kyle Wiens, one of the things he said is only one state needs to pass this. Eight are considering it, he said the best one would be Massachusetts. The reason is if any state passes it, all the manuals, all the parts have to start to be sold in that state, that means it's accessible to anybody in the US. So if one state passes it, it's as good as done.
Devindra: I could understand the concern too, because Apple refurbished iPhones has become a bigger business for them.
Leo: That's how they're going to get into the Indian market.
Devindra: For sure. If you have all these third party repairs happening and you don't know the quality of the repair, that phone is less valuable.
Leo: I understand the signs, really.
Devindra: There is that. Honestly the hacker issue, it may sound a little over blow, but you don't know what somebody is doing with your device when you take it to the backroom you start picking it apart, and a lot of the times you have to unlock your phone and give certain access to it as well. They may not even need that, but people maybe tell somebody that they do. There is a certain value in making sure only Apple people are doing it, but we don't know if they're trustworthy either.
Leo: That's this particular part might be moot with the next iPhone because Apple has patented on screen fingerprint reader.
Devindra: It's going to be the same deal. The whole it's the secure element and tying it to the actual whatever is reading the fingerprint, I've got to get my screen replaced and they had to do a thing to make sure that was all connected with the new touch ID.
Leo: Samsung does that too with Knox. If you attempt to modify a root in a Samsung phone, they have a special counter, and as soon as it has been routed, Knox and all that secure stuff turns off, which is a better way to handle it. Isn't that how we eventually handled the Error 53?
Christina: Yes. That's what they wound up doing, which is acceptable. What's not acceptable is breaking someone's phone completely when they might not have had a choice in how the repair was done. I think to Devindra's point, even though it might seem silly, you can conceive of if someone were to come up with a hardware modification to your phone or install something at that level, that's a scary prospect of them taking your phone to some unauthorized dealer and now that is allowed because you have right to repair. Telling the difference between the phones... that's the big consumer issue. How do you know that this refurbished phone has gone through the same steps as this refurbished phone? Right now if you buy one from Apple or you buy one from some of the various places its gone through, different levels, and it's used official parts. I wouldn't want to buy a phone that had a battery made by someone who might not be able to spec, or had a screen or a home button that wasn't as good. Who knows? I see both sides. I think that saying you don't have the right to repair your technology no matter what your rational is is a dangerous thing to say and obviously you're going to get pushback from a lot of people, including the senator of Nebraska who as you were pointing out, is well informed on this issue.
Devindra: It seems pointless to fight the law too, right? Because the devices are getting more and more integrated, it's going to be tougher to replace individual components. That is something we can't really stop and legislate against. That's what is going to happen as the iPhone gets thinner, that's just one piece of the logic board.
Leo: Ifixit just gave the air pods, may not be the first time, zero repairability because it's glue throughout the entire body. On $150 pair of headphones, I guess that's OK.
Christina: That's OK. The replacement cost is $70 per air pod, slightly less than buying a new pair. I'm fine with that. To make things that small, it would be nice if you can do more self-repairs, sure, but you've got to think about other stuff.
Leo: This is from my own experience. I had a MacBook. Many years ago. Before the Mac safe adaptor, the power chord had gotten pulled out, and it bent and broke the connection of the power chord to the mother board. Brought it to Apple, and they said the way we fix that is we replace the whole Motherboard, that'll be a thousand dollars. Brought it to an independent Mac Store in San Francisco, and the guy said we see this all the time, I just sodder it back on. $15. I was really glad that Mac Adam existed and the guy understood it and was able to fix it that quickly. I didn't want to buy a new logic board. That's why you should have the right to a repair. I think you do have the right to repair computers.
Christina: Yeah. I think so. Somebody on the chat was pointing out this is about making third party repair manuals available, and parts.
Leo: And by the way, tools. They have special purpose built machines in the back to disassemble... you can't disassemble an iPhone and take a screwdriver to it. So they have all these special purpose tools.
Devindra: It's not just about third party repair people. It's the competition. Apple is about keeping its trade secrets close to the vest. Samsung and LG has spent a lot of time disassembling these phones, but if they had the exact manuals to, that would be different.
Leo: I apologize to everybody outside the United States for pronouncing Solder sodder. We're the only... there's a couple things we do really well here in the United States. We do Fahrenheit, we don't do the metric system, we do feet, we do the imperial system. We don't do single payer healthcare, and we pronounce solder wrong. We're good at all three of those.
Christina: This just shows my ignorance. I didn't know it wasn't pronounced solder outside of the United States.
Leo: I didn't either until I started doing podcasts, and then I sure heard about it. To our couple from Perth, I'm saying it wrong, aren't I? It's solder. It's also a rooter, not a router. Right? But rooting means something different in Australia. Don't ever wear a fanny pack in Great Britain. But that's another story entirely. More than a third of our audience is outside the US. I ought to start, I've already started saying zed instead of Z. That makes sense. But solder, I can't get used to solder. Sounds like something is wrong. If I do that, all the Americans will say why are you saying it wrong? We'll talk.... let's take a break. Then I want to talk about Sid Beconovar, who is a JP scientist US citizen who had his phone taken away by the customs and border patrol and data sucked. What issue this raises, and what you would recommend, if you're going to travel outside the US with electronics, I was talking on the radio show, and I'd like to hear what you guys think. Devindra Hardawar is here from Engadget, from Gizmodo Film_girl Christina Warren. I can't call you Film_girl any more, can I?
Christina: Sure you can. It's my Twitter handle.
Leo: It's your brand, man. And Ed Bott, who is my contemporary from ZDnet.
Leo: Do you ever say zeddnet?
Ed: Yes, because we're a global organization, we have staff in Australia, the UK, Singapore, South Korea. So zed is what the majority of ZDnet staffers say. It comes up regularly.
Leo: I feel like I'm very futuristic. I'm a global guy when I say zed. And solder. Our show to you today brought to you by Freshbooks, the ridiculously easy cloud accounting software, I discovered it first 12 years ago when I was a freelancer flying up to Vancouver to do a call up there. As many freelancers, at the end of every month, I had to sit down and... if you think you hate paying bills, creating bills is just as bad. Invoicing people. You got to sit down with Word or Excel. I had a bill in Canadian dollars and it changed the currencies. I had to figure out what my expenses were so I could get them to pay for my travel. It was just a pain in the butt. What I learned quickly is you don't invoice, you don't get paid. It was Amber McCarthur that told me about a brand new startup in 2004 called Freshbooks. Here we are 12 years later. Now ten million people use Freshbooks. It's not just to do invoices. That's where it starts. It's 30 seconds to a great invoice. Because the invoices have a button on them that says pay me, they support online payments, you're going to get paid an average of 11 days faster. You'll invoice faster, you'll get paid faster. You can also see which invoices have been sent, viewed... so you know more clients saying I never got your invoice. Yes, you did. You looked at it yesterday. And paid, you'll also know what's overdo and what's outstanding. You can even send a gentle reminder or not so gentle reminder. They'll do that automatically if they're late. But it's not about that. It's about making it easier for your client so you get paid faster. Everybody is happier. You can even set up recurring payments. Not only do you send out an invoice automatically, they pay you automatically. Believe it or not, a lot of clients really like that. Freshbooks is an accounting solution, the brand new front page will tell you something so many freelancers don't know. Whether you're making a profit because they know your expenses, they know your account is receivable. There's even time tracking built into the website and they have a Freshbooks app, so if you bill by hours you can easily incorporate that into the invoice automatically, even divide it up by project and client. Track your time to the minute, you can manage team time sheets, that's in there too. Track expenses, and when it's time for tax time, your accountant will love it, even if you are your own accountant, because you can get all those accountant reports like sales tax and all that. The dashboard is great for you, so you don't have to be a book keeper to understand it, you know where you stand, and when you do need those specific reports for your bookkeeper you got those too. Freshbooks.com: join the ten million small business owners who use Freshbooks free. Do it right now for 30 days. Freshbooks.com/twit and enter This Week in Tech if you would when they ask you how did you hear about us. Freshbooks.com/twit, we thank them so much for their support of This Week in Tech. Did you see the story... it was just on Snopes. Because of the way security services work, we can't really verify this story. I think it's true. Sid Beaconovar is a scientist at JPL. He is US born: he's a citizen. He's a NASA engineer traveling with a valid US passport. He was in South America for car racing when he tried to get back in early this month, he was detained by homeland security, he was stuck in a room where people were sleeping on cots. People were stranded on the Muslim ban, they seized his phone and wouldn't give it to him, they gave him access for the PIN. He said this wasn't even my phone, it was a JPL issued phone, and he had been instructed to keep it secure. But they also told him if you don't give us your phone, you'll be sitting here for a while. He said I'll give you the phone and the PIN. Half an hour later, they came back with the phone after having copied his data. This is his Facebook post, and the reason he posted this is he said I'm removing my Facebook page, I'm removing my social media accounts until I know what they got and what they want. They have passwords, they have everything. They gave his phone to JPL to run forensics on, they were apparently fairly upset about it. He's working with legal counsel at JPL. So, this is important. This has been the case for some time, but I think it's ramped up. When you enter the United States, whether you're a citizen or not, they can go through your bags, but the issue is can they also go through your electronics, and lately the opinion has been of the CPB and of federal officials that they can. They have the right to look at your computer, the right to look at your phone. Is it enough to turn off everything before we re-enter the US? I'm going to be traveling this year. Ed, what do you think?
Ed: Turn it off. At any rate, the border protection folks did that to me.
Leo: Don't let Ed speak.
Ed: If I had sensitive data on my computer, first of all, it would be encrypted, and I wouldn't give up the password for that. For any social media apps, if I were in a situation where I felt I were at risk of being searched or inspected at the border, I would delete the app, and wipe out the cache on my phone before I re-entered. At that point, there's nothing they can do. It's trivially easy once you get back to a place where you feel safe to re-install the app or go to a different device, enter your password and there you are. But for social media in particular, the simplest and best solution is to simply delete those apps and wipe the cache.
Leo: I think social media is a good example because it's often lent to misinterpretation. People say jokey things. Could be misinterpreted!
Ed: The worst thing is that it is a social graph. As a result, they are finding your friends…
Leo: Your whole cell.
Ed: If you know somebody who knows somebody, a perfectly innocent friend who has a guilty friend, you are guilt by association. It's six degrees of Kevin Bacon. For some people, especially journalists, investigative reporters, scientists, anybody who is a vulnerable position right now, delete it.
Leo: When I went to China a few years ago, I did not occupation, I was counseled not to say journalist but to say teacher or educator. I didn't feel was a lie, but now I'm going to do the same thing coming into the United States. That's sad. This guy is a US citizen, US born, but I guess because he has a name with a lot of consonants...
Devindra: It was a random search, Leo.
Leo: A little darker than you and me... maybe not you. If I were you, Devindra, I would not leave the town. I would stay in Brooklyn. Are you concerned? Do you travel internationally?
Devindra: I travel internationally for work sometimes. Who knows what is going to happen between the US and Taiwan. It's all kind of scary. As somebody, I'm not Muslim, but I feel like the effect of the Muslim ban would make people treat me differently, and that's why this story worries me. Your advice is good, Ed about deleting social apps, but that doesn't... your social content will still be out there. It wouldn't be that hard for them to find who you are if you're posting publicly and link you up to people. The bigger problem is data on your device. There's not much you can do about it short of deleting it and not keeping any data on your device that you don't want a Government agency to see. Even if you encrypt it, the NSA isn't going to get involved for most people, but we have ways of cracking that stuff too.
Leo: Your rights are different. In the past, we've always said they maybe can force you to do a fingerprint unlock because courts have held over the years that a strand of hair for DNA or a fingerprint when they book you for an arrest isn't self-incriminating testimony. That's information, but it isn't incriminating. A password, or anything that's in your mind, the police don't have the right to that because of the fifth amendment and the right against self- incrimination. Note that might be different coming over the border. The border patrol people and the EFF has weighed in on this and said technically the ACLU said if you're asked for your PIN or password, call us. But you want to go home. You don't want to be spending the next few days in detainment at an airport. Airport jail cannot be good. I can see why anybody would say fine, just take the PIN. Rory Selingen asked the British embassy what their advice would be if you're going into the US embassy in London. All international travelers arriving in the US, all American travelers as well, are subject to US customs and border protection inspection. This inspection may include electronic devices, computers, discs, drives, tapes, mobile phones, other communications devices, cameras, music and other media players, and any electronic or digital devices. Keeping America safe and enforcing our Nation's law in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the United States. So assume that you're subject to this. Golly, this makes me sad. The reason is to some people searching your luggage and searching your digital devices is equivalent. Should it be? This is the debate. This goes back to San Bernardino and the PIN number. The FBI wanting access to that phone. It feels to me like your phone has more personal stuff in it than your suitcase.
Devindra: There should definitely be a differentiation. I'm still annoyed that they have the right to search through suitcases. I've definitely lost cameras and other things that I've left in my carry ons. They can open them up and take whatever.
Leo: You too?
Christina: I lost a camera that I was dumb enough to not take on as a carry on. I thought it'll be fine. No, it wasn't. It was taken.
Ed: Those are run of the mill luggage thieves. There was a ring working in Newark airport that got busted a year or two ago.
Leo: I would hope so. I would hope that law enforcement wouldn't be doing that.
Devindra: I remember homeland security people being tied to this stuff too.
Leo: I certainly, I feel invaded if they want to go through my music, if they want to go through my social accounts. They've said this. We reserve the right to ask you for the passwords to your social media accounts.
Christina: There have been some people who suggested that depending on what you do and what line of work you're in, taking a burner phone if you're leaving the country. Depending on what type of work you do, that actually might not be a bad idea. If the information is really sensitive, you don't want to have any of your accounts on there. For me, I'm obviously not involved in anything illegal. I'm not doing anything that would be going against what the border agents would want. But if they were to go through my social media profiles and go through other stuff and you see something that you made, or someone on your timeline makes a joke, it could be interpreted the wrong way, or somebody makes a political statement that is interpreted in the wrong way. People can be detained or questions can be asked. That's a scary place to be. I'm fortunate in that I have a lot of privilege in that I have a last name and a skin color that precludes me from these things, but it doesn't mean it's not a real problem and I'm not concerned as a journalist in this state and time leaving when things are the way they are.
Devindra: What scares me about all of this is as soon as the travel ban was announced we started hearing reports of people being detained at JFK, families, children being detained for hours with no food and no way to get to their relatives that were here. My worry is that we have all these normal workers. People who are doing their job. At the stroke of Donald Trump's pen, they become willing participants in his vision of fascism, and that's how it begins. It's people doing their job. Somebody doing their job, they take your phone. Somebody doing their job, they detain you here.
Leo: Authoritarianism creeps up slowly on you.
Devindra: It's terrifying.
Leo: There's an uplifting topic.
Ed: But an important one.
Leo: I think so.
Ed: A really important one. We are seeing a lot of interest in this from the ACLU, from the electronic frontier foundation, from other organizations that are going to be pushing hard and speaking up very loudly about these issues. It's just not what the USA is supposed to be about. You've got to push back on stuff like this. To your point about it being inconvenient to be stuck in an airport, I appreciate that. On the other hand I appreciate that there are people whose names are attached to landmark court decisions who did more than inconvenience themselves. They put themselves in harm's way and spent years fighting back so that they could establish these principles. If somebody wants to do that to me, great. Let it be Bott versus the US.
Leo: You're volunteering. Good for you. All right.
Ed: Let's put it this way. Ain't nobody going to get my PIN or passwords at the border. Period, full stop.
Leo: By the way, the ACLU says it is illegal for law enforcement officers to discriminate on any political beliefs, race, religion, but law enforcement in airports have the authority to search bags and ask you question about your citizenship and travel itinerary. They have asserted they do not have the right to ask you for your PIN. You can legally refuse them without risking court or jail time. On the other hand, they may detain you longer. They may make it inconvenient or uncomfortable for you.
Ed: I've got three international trips planned this year.
Leo: Me too. One is South America, one is France, but one is to Cuba. I'm very nervous about coming back from Cuba. I think I might not bring any electronics to Cuba. It won't work. They don't have Internet anyway, so it's probably safe to do that.
Devindra: The best outcome I've seen from all of this in the hellfire we're living through right now is the immune response system that has left up of US Democracy. The protests are lighting up, let's fight back. I'm glad you said what you did, Ed. I think if this stuff continues to happen, people will fight back. We will see some resistance to all of this.
Leo: I don't know if you know who Dale Baron is. He is a comic artist. He does high quality precision comics, and wrote a Medium post this morning on Valentine's Day. It's been passed around, saying this is all our fault because of 4Chan. All of us have been around long enough to watch the rise of 4Chan. It's his opinion that what's happening in America is the logical conclusion of all of this. I'm not sure I agree. I think there is a group of people who are in it for the LOLz. That's the 4Chan people. I think there's more than that. There are a lot of reasons why this is going on, but it's a very interesting read. I think it's worth reading. It's on Medium. He says he was an early 4Chan user, before 4Chan forum, Something AWwul. Of course Pepe the Frog is a 4Chan meme. It's really interesting.
Devindra: There's definitely a philosophical throughline you can build from 4Chan through gamergate then to everything that has happened this year.
Leo: In some ways, I've often wondered this. Remember when we had the debates in which we all roundly disagreed with, all of these kids playing violent video games that there was going to be some social consequence to a whole generation raised in front of a screen and so forth. I wonder in some ways if there is a consequence, maybe it took a long time to come out.
Devindra: It wasn't the violent video games, it was the people who didn't have friends online.
Leo: That's where these guys came from, right? Not everybody. We all played violent video games, but a certain percentage of people became very anti-social, and a culture was created. You can't disagree with that. There was a culture created, and its created, it's politically incorrect to say this, but I kind of feel like that's what happened.
Devindra: There are separate things. There is the culture, there is gamer culture in general, and there are sub sections of that, I don't know if I blame the games themselves, it could be any sort of game.
Leo: No. I'm not blaming the game, but I'm blaming this isolative culture. Kids in the last 20 years have had the opportunity to not go outside. Not even to relate to people in real life. IRL, but instead relate to people on the Internet, relate to people through forms and gaming and become... it fostered a kind of lonerism that as it turns out can be destructive, not only to the person, but to the rest of the world. Trolling is a direct outcome of this, and for the LOLZ, and a lot of this. I want you to talk me out of it. Maybe I'm an old man now and you kids see I told you should get some fresh air.
Christina: I don't think it's just the lack of fresh air,
Leo: They're not kids any more. They're your guys age.
Christina: Part of it is that we became social currency and pop culture in other places where acting like a troll would lead to a certain amount of popularity and fame and attention. There are whole television networks and shows and real entertainment that are built on these same sorts of shows.
Leo: TV is just as much to blame.
Christina: If there's any blame...
Leo: Blame is a mistake. Just to see the causality, perhaps.
Christina: I think there's been a pattern of rewarding certain types of behavior for a long time with attention, with fame...
Leo: I was a loner in my adolescence. I played chess. I did all the things... had I had the opportunity to sit in my basement playing games and had we had the Internet, I'm sure I would have been anti social. I'm shy and introspective, and I would have become that person. I didn't have that opportunity thank god. I remember in high school...
Ed: Thermonuclear war.
Leo: In high school, I had that same snarky... and I knew others that had that same screw it all make fun of establishment mentality, but I couldn't weaponize it, because it was a few of us, because there was no way to talk to anyone else about that. I think it got weaponized by the Internet.
Ed: Two things, number one this is not a new topic. There was a book written a couple years ago called bowling alone, the collapse and revival of American community that addressed this exact topic. It isn't just online services and chatrooms and communities and such, it's across the board.
Leo: Your generation was told... you're the stranger danger generation. You can't go outside, you'll get kidnapped and mutilated. All our kids had to stay inside...
Ed: There was a whole book written about that. It's a very good book and worth reading. I think the second thing that is maybe more important is that our social media networks have made the same mistake that the Internet made in its early days. It was designed optimistically. The Internet was designed...
Leo: Assuming people were good and benign.
Ed: And so instead of.. Twitter for example. Nobody ever thought at Twitter that nazis would take over Twitter. If you had told them that in 2007 when the first tweet said "Just setting up my Twitter."
Leo: I think they knew there were people that would do that, as did I. They were the free speech wing of the free speech party, but I thought, and I think they thought that the sunlight would disinfect. That's a good thing.
Ed: That's the mistake. The mistake has always been a small amount of bad speech can always drown out good speech. That's why you don't read the comments. The number of trolls... Most of these systems were never designed in such a way that they could resist the cancer of hate speech and actors with malicious intent. Because these things were designed to make money and grow big quickly without any concept of how to grow big safely and securely for the entire community, that's how you got viruses for PCs. That's how you got SPAM taking over entire email servers. That's how you have nazis taking over Twitter, and fake news taking over Facebook.
Leo: The interesting thing is I think a lot of these aren't really nazis. I watched, boy it was painful. Milo Yiannapolis on Bill Maher this week. He's the guy who was banned on Twitter, because he used his real name. He is one of those people, I'm might been that kind of person. I'm not doing anything wrong, I'm just having fun. He obviously likes the attention. I think it's possible he doesn't believe anything he's saying. But he amassed an army on Twitter of things he's said. Because the things he said incited whole groups of people to go after other people. He was very adept at manipulating a mob in Twitter in effect. I watched him. I think a lot of these people are like him. I don't know.. they're not ideologically nazis. They're probably not idealogically racist, they're in it for the LOLz.
Ed: It doesn't matter.
Leo: I agree it doesn't matter. But this Pewdiepie story is related, right? because Pewdiepie talked about this. He was banned, I got a number of tweets last week saying I misunderstood this entirely. Pewdiepie was banned... he had a deal with Maker studios, part of Disney, and then... actually. Let me tell you what happened. Then we'll take a break, because Aussie geek girl in the chatroom has to go to the bathroom. As soon as I go through this. What Pewdiepie says he did is there's a service called Fiverr, if you give somebody five dollars, they're do stuff. He thought it would be fun if he tried it, and paid five bucks to get somebody to say death to Jews. And a couple guys in India took the money. Pewdiepie, this was all on the video, professed shock and dismay that a fiver would allow you to do that and somebody would take the five bucks and do it, oh my god. I'm shocked. This is what Pewdiepie does, this is how you get 53 million subscribers on YouTube. But he crossed a line and this kind of anti-Semitism will not stand, Disney dropped him. Even Youtube, they didn't kill his channel, but they said you can't be part of the special kids you get special advertising deals. This is another example of this kind of culture where, "Oh, look what I did!" and the question is it OK? I think... the tweets I got, you don't understand Pewdiepie. He's holding up a mirror to culture and mocking the culture, and saying it's funny. I remember when I was 16 doing snarky funny things... but it has been weaponized now. Pewdipie did it for an audience of 53 million people on YouTube. I did it for my friends and we laughed and we knew the context. That was it. I sure didn't do it for a teacher or a parent.
Christina: I think people have made a comparison and said why what Pewdipie did was not OK, and why South Park is OK. It's a fair question. Ben Kashir wrote at Polycon, his response was pretty good, they're funny. PewdiPie's sin was that he wasn't funny.
Leo: Is that a crime? Not being funny?
Christina: If you're going to try to shed a light on a social mirror, or a construct, you have to do it with a certain amount of nuance, and a certain deftness that he didn't have. If he had been very funny and skilled in the way he did it, I still think there would have been backlash. Both things are fair to me. He has the right to make videos that say whatever he wants to say. Whether his jokes are funny or not, if his audience enjoys them, he has the right to make those videos. By the same token, advertisers and companies like the Walt Disney Company have the right to say we don't want to be associated with this sort of content. Both things to me are completely fair. He can continue making his videos, advertisers can say we will or we won't.
Leo: One of the things Dale Baron says in this article is that 4Chan defined itself by being insensitive to suffering in a way only people who have never really suffered can. That is to say, mostly young men protected by a cloak of anonymity. That's kind of it, isn't it?
Devindra: It's the death of empathy as a culture. I was that snarky teenager too, I think every teenager is. We all...
Leo: Because you don't know any better.
Devindra: We rebel against what came before, that's how culture moves forward, that's the way it works. We've spent so much in this conversation, Leo. I just want to quickly say the bigger problem isn't that it started with these kids being home alone and not allowed to go outside, it is the power of communication and what the Internet enabled. You can look at talk radio, reality TV, what people watch and do makes sense beyond the Internet, but the Internet became a tool for rallying together. My early time on the Internet, I spent a lot of time chatting with people about video games and anime and stuff like that. Now you go and look at the subcultures forming around some things and it's gross and disgusting because of what the Internet has become and how widespread it has become. It's a problem with communication, and my big worry is this loss of empathy.
Leo: This is a conversation that is being held in some quarters in 1938. The rise of mass media enabled Josef Goebels and Adolf Hitler to seduce and sway a German populus. It was the first use of mass media for the same thing. Oftentimes new technologies offer new opportunities. I think there's never been a more powerful technology than the Internet. But Ed, you said this is the inevitable consequence. Can we get past this?
Ed: I didn't say it's the inevitable consequence. I said it's something that needs to be taken into account during the design process for any system like this. I don't know. Certainly Twitter, there is a million things that Twitter could be doing. They're doing one or two, maybe. You say I don't think these people are literally Nazis. If somebody, and I know people, mostly they're women, whose Twitter feeds have been polluted with pictures of Holocaust scenes and the being pushed into ovens.
Leo: You know this intimately, Christina.
Christina: I do.
Ed: Non-stop. So there comes a point...
Leo: She was chased out of her home by this.
Ed: You ask the question. What's the test? The Supreme Court actually came up with the test. Miller v. California: the test was serious, if it's utterly without socially redeeming value, then it's pornography. If it lacks serious artistic, political, or scientific value. Those are... I could look at PewdiPie: is there any redeeming social value in the work that he did? Is there any serious literary political or scientific value there? Perhaps. Let someone make the case for that. But some random Twitter account with a Pepe the frog meme attached to it, that is spewing pictures of Auschwitz to people with Jewish last names, I think Twitter ought to be canceling those accounts and making sure the people behind those accounts don't recreate them. It doesn't seem like...
Leo: They say they're doing that, although I haven't seen any evidence.
Devindra: That is the harder problem. Killing accounts is easy, but making sure that people can create fake emails is...
Leo: If somebody decides to be anonymous on Twitter, it's fairly trivial to do that.
Devindra: Maybe phone verification could be a thing.
Leo: They would have to institute some sort of verification. But there's still burner phones, right?
Ed: At that point, you have eliminated the problem that we have right now is that there are literally programs that are troll generators. They create bots, with one t. And those automated accounts can go out and spew hatred far and white. Guess what? If you create some sort of validation process for them, you have knee capped the Industry that creates those automated hate generating systems. But Twitter is in trouble economically. Their revenue has declined for 14 straight quarters. For them to do that, would be for them to admit is the vast majority of accounts that have been created are not real, and then you'd get to the point where you can see what Twitter really is, and they'd economically collapse. So for economic reasons, for the same reason that PewdiPie is still allowed to have his stuff up there and have advertising revenue created to it, it's the same thing. As long as people are making money from it, they are going to have a hard time doing the right thing.
Leo: Basically all Google said to PewdiPie is just for that we're going to take more of your revenue. That's the punishment. Wow. I also... I understand that maybe I don't understand fully what is... I come from white privilege. I'm not going to suffer, and of course it's the ultimate white privilege to say this is just joking, it's kids being kids. No harms meant. It's not a Muslim ban. I don't have to worry about it. I am challenged, and I bet many of us are challenged on how to think about this. What it really means, where we're headed, what is the upshot of this? I really thought the Internet was going to be a voice for everybody, the ultimate Democratization. It was going to liberate the world. And it's very sad if this is the final result, I can't accept that. There's got to be a way forward.
Devindra: I wouldn't say this is the final result, but this is a result. This is a result of many things too. This is a response to having Barack Obama as President for eight years too. Let's led to a lot of resentment, a lot of pushback. In other ways, in politics...
Leo: There's a lot more going on..
Devindra: We're stepping through these stages of society, but the Internet now is the greatest communication device we've ever had, but what I've always loved about Twitter is it's the Matrix timeline of what's going on in the world. It's just looking down seeing code, and seeing what's happening in the world. That's, there's good and bad to that and we have to figure out how to move beyond that. We have to get more enlightened as a culture to do that.
Leo: You know what's really interesting to me is that despite the fact that none of this could be foreseen 260 years ago, how we didn't foresee it 10 years ago. Nevertheless, the fundamental truths of the Constitution seem to work. I feel like the Constitution has some deep, kind of profound value, ethical truths in it and if we could exercise them, we might make it. At least the policy might make it. This country might make it. That doesn't have anything to do with our culture or how people will be.
Devindra: And where it didn't work, we spent a lot of time amending it and fixing things. So that's—yea. I actually just re-watched Steven Spielberg's Lincoln last night.
Leo: I saw your tweet.
Devindra: It had to feel a little good about this land of America. And that movie, I love that movie. It's a really strange thing because it's like a play. But I love that movie when I first saw it. Watching it now though, seeing people fight for the 13th amendment, it's kind of heartbreaking.
Leo: It's been like this though through much of American history. You know what? I've been reading a lot of history books for the same reason, because I'm trying to understand. Is this a unique moment in history or is this just a very—and it is, a very common cycle in the American experiment? We've been going through this for 260 years.
Ed: Have you read the biography of Andrew Jackson?
Ed: John Meacham's biography of Andrew Jackson is good reading.
Leo: No, I haven't read that. I've been doing a lot of reading of Andrew Jackson. Because he's considered a populous president much in the mold of Trump. And Trump has a big portrait of Jackson on the wall next to his desk in the Oval Office.
Ed: He was an interesting character and probably misunderstood. But a better reason to read the biography is not so much to understand him, but to understand the times and how that was 25-years before, or 35-years before the Civil War started but all of the pieces were in place for it to have started. And it was inevitable, unfortunately. It's a great book, well worth reading.
Leo: All right. Let's take a break. Let's have some snacks. Get our blood sugar up and we'll continue on. You know, you guys were great the last time we were together. Now I remember. Devindra Hardawar from Engadget. From Gizmodo, it's Christina Warren. And Ed Bott. Great to have all 3 of you from ZDNet. I mentioned snacks because our sponsor is Nature Box. And I always love the time I can open up my new Nature Box. Nature Box is the solution to the junk food jones. You know that time at 2 in the afternoon when you go in the back and you say, "Is there a candy bar with my name on it?" You don't want to do that. That's why we give the employees Nature Box. They're created with high quality ingredients, free from artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. They're delicious and you always get a great variety in your Nature Box and if at any time you say, "That snack's not for me," they will replace it free. How about Nutty Power Clusters. Nut squares with walnuts, almonds and cashews. How could that—would you like some? You're nodding. I can see. Go ahead, take some. Oh, this is for me. Naked Trail Mix, nuts, raisins, seeds and dried fruit. And I love this because you look at the ingredients, it's peanuts, raisins, almonds, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried apples, cashews, peanut oils and salt. That's all. Really, I'm serious. Come and get some. This is all for you guys. Crunchy barbeque twists. Peanut Butter Graham Jam. Oh, that's new. They always have new. They have like a lab that makes it. Peanut butter cookie, peanut butter coated grahams with dried fruits and peanuts. Yea, you want some. I know you do. Go ahead. You can (laughing). Zesty Nacho Curls. Anyway, here's your Nature Box. There are over 100 snacks to choose from. Pass them around. Choose the snacks you want. The deliver right to your door. There are new snacks every month inspired by customer feedback. We have a happy audience now. Eat well. Live better. If you ever try a snack you don't like we'll replace it free. So if there's something you don't like, give it to me and I'll get a new one. Right now you'll save even more. Nature Box is offering all of you 50% off your first order. I would give you some right now if I could but I can't. So go to naturebox.com/twit. Look at that, Asiago and Cheddar Cheese Crisps. The dried fruit, the dried mango, the dried pineapple rings, they're the best dried fruit I've ever had. And there's nothing in it. It's just the fruit. Love it. Naturebox.com/twit, 50% off your first order. Share the snacks. Share the snack wealth. Naturebox.com/twit. Did everybody get some? All right? There's more if you—(laughing). The audience will be quiet now for a moment.
Ed: Just the faint sound of chewing.
Leo: Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom, nom. All right, let me think. Where should we go here? When you talk about all this serious stuff and deep stuff and you guys are so smart, I almost feel bad saying, "Well what about those iPhone 8 rumors?" It's like---
Devindra: It's a little hard to write about phone rumors, yea.
Leo: Yea. Yea. Do we want to talk about those?
Ed: And what happens though is you know, these things become like, you say this is more important than everything else. And you get people, you know, somebody on Twitter just called us all douchebags because he says, "Well, those TSA regulations are from 2014 so don't blame Trump."
Leo: I didn't blame Trump. I didn't even mention Trump.
Ed: No, I think you know, yea, but that's how sensitive people are. But you know what? If somebody had asked for my, for the passwords to my social media accounts at a border entry in 2014 or 2012 or 2010, I would have said no then too. But you know what? It's only coming up now.
Leo: Right, right.
Ed: Let's talk about the iPad Pro.
Leo: We did talk about that by the way in 2014. It's been coming. There was some concern about that. So we've seen this coming. And by the way, there's nothing wrong with a douchebag. It's a lovely device for cleaning yourself and I'm clean as a whistle. So there you go.
Ed: It's a form of lavage.
Leo: It's lavage. Douche means shower in French. So what is this tweet of yours? I don't understand. You better explain to me. Compare the screen shot with the user profile.
Ed: Well, ok, you have to, so you have to look at that entire thread. Actually go back up.
Leo: Go back up.
Ed: To the top.
Leo: All right. This, by the way, one of the things I'm always confused about Twitter, which direction is up. What's the most recent one?
Ed: So Apple has launched a new ad campaign for the iPad Pro and they're quoting tweets from PC users.
Leo: Now, you think Republicans and Democrats are vicious fight, but PC users tweeting about iPads, you've got a problem.
Ed: So you look at this guy and so they, so they quote his tweet.
Leo: It's Jeremy. He says, "An iPad Pro is not even close to being a computer."
Ed: Ok, so now you can scroll down and look at—
Leo: Because here's Jeremy.
Ed: And that's actually Jeremy on the right.
Leo: Wait a minute. So, Jeremy on the right—
Ed: The guy who really posted that tweet.
Leo: NaskarrKid, he's a white guy, a redhead actually.
Ed: A white guy from the University of Alabama. And they replaced him with this guy.
Leo: A nice African American.
Ed: So now scroll down to the next one.
Leo: IS this a pattern?
Ed: Yes, they did 4 ads like this.
Leo: Oh, they went the other way. They went the other way.
Ed: Well, what they did was to replace these people who are all kind of you know, normal Americans but also edgy and they replaced them with people who look like they work in an Apple Store.
Leo: They probably do, right? So, Hay, who did the original tweet is Hispanic, a YouTuber, singer, fitness, student, beauty enthusiast. But apparently this is someone who spends a lot of time in her bedroom concerned about spiders. I don't know.
Ed: I just thought the whole thing was very funny.
Leo: It's weird.
Ed: If you're going to use real people—
Devindra: They Gap-ified the users.
Leo: Yea, Gap-ified. Gapified. That's exactly right.
Ed: The larger issue is that they're trying to capture the same lightning in a bottle that they got back in 2007 with the Mac versus PC ad campaign. But at least in that one, you know, they were creating characters. And they were writing scripts and all that. There's a—
Leo: By the way, I don't understand, why does—this is an Apple ad. So why is Appel running tweets that are knocking the iPad? I don't—
Christina: Because I think the content of the ad is that people will say, "Oh, I can't do this stuff." And then they will actually use—
Leo: Oh, I see. So these people—oh, so.
Ed: So each one is some sort of complaint from a PC user and then the ad. And then they say look at how great, look at how the iPad Pro will solve your problems.
Leo: Well, you know, Microsoft's done ads like this too.
Ed: And if you scroll a little farther down in that thread it will say if Microsoft had done this kind of ad campaign, oh, Lord, they would have been crucified.
Leo: (Laughing) Oh she is scared. She's scared of viruses is what she's scared of. Let's see what this guy Jeremy, the NASCAR enthusiast. He says, "An iPad Pro isn't even close to being a computer." And then they give him a keyboard and a pencil and they do email. And then he's happy. It's not a computer. It's better. You know, what are you going to do? Ads are ads, right?
Ed: Well, right, but I thought this was—I found this ad on—
Leo: This doesn't reach the level of Gmail Man.
Ed: Or the Internet Explorer 8 in private browsing ads which were frightening. Those were truly, truly awful. But no, I thought there were two things about this ad campaign that struck me as weird. First of all, Apple's been going back and forth about the iPad Pro. Is it a PC? It's not a PC. It is. Now they're saying that it's better than a PC. It's a PC Plus.
Christina: Well, I mean they definitely wanted to go up against the Chromebook.
Leo: Oh, is that where they're aiming? Actually Microsoft's doing the same thing. They have a new version of, what is it, the cloud version of Windows.
Ed: But the iPad, they're doing this with the iPad Pro. You, for the activities that they're talking about here, you cannot get an iPad Pro configured the way that they have them here for under $1000-dollars. So if they're trying to go up against the Chromebook and cheap PCs? This is, I mean, this is—that's the part here to me that's a really weird disconnect because they're selling $1000-dollar plus device. You can get a, you can tart an iPad Pro up to about $1600-bucks I think. And that's not a Chromebook. So that's the one thing. And the other thing that I just thought was weird was to do this thing, I mean if you're going to do PC users complaining about PCs, either use the real people or you know, get Justin Long and John Hodgeman back.
Leo: Might as well, yea. Christina, I cut you off. What were you going to say? I cut Christina off.
Christina: Oh no, I was just saying that they're clearly aiming this ad at the Chromebook and lower end Windows machines. Now whether that's a fair price comparison or not is another situation. But that's clearly how they're targeting the iPad Pro. And I think that's one of the ways that they're trying to change the idea of what an iPad was, you know, from kind of being a table which at this point has become, everything that's not an iPad, an inexpensive kind of secondary computing device to being able to say actually you can do real work on these things. And I have an iPad Pro and I love it. And I think it's a very good tablet and I think depending on what apps you use, ironically I think the Microsoft apps are some of the best apps that really show off the iPad Pro. But, yea, it's difficult for them. They're in a weird spot because the MacBook starts at what, $1,400-dolllars, the MacBook Pro rather. You know, you've got the MacBook which starts at $1,300-dollars or $1,200-dollars. You're in a spot where this kind of is their less expensive option. So even though it is a price barrier.
Leo: Zephyr in the chatroom's got it. She says, "Marketers have gotten so clever, I'm completely confused."
Leo: That's really the final upshot of all of this. I don't know. I hear, I talk to people all the time on the radio show. I don't know what to get. Seriously.
Christina: That's part of the problem, right?
Devindra: Apple in particular has lost their marketing mojo, right?
Leo: Really? You think so?
Devindra: All the ads right now—I think so. They're not, even from when the first iPhone ad, yea that one's nice. But compared to the earlier iPhone ads and the iPod ads, I remember seeing the first commercials for the iPhone 7. And it was so weird and dark and fetishistic. It was like a David Fincher commercial for like a very dark movie. Look at this all black iPhone. Isn't this amazing? There's nothing, there was no fun about it. There wasn't anything about how this would make your life better. It was more like look at this awesome thing. And I don't know if they can get their messaging back. Maybe they need better ad people in general.
Leo: I just got the Samsung Chromebook Plus and the Pro's coming out in a couple of months. These are the first, and Dell's doing it now and Asus, mid-range, not super cheap but not Pixel expensive Chromebooks.
Leo: And I'm starting to wonder really if a tablet is the right choice for a lot of people. For a student I don't think a tablet of any kind is the right choice when you can compare it to a Chromebook, a $450-dollar Chromebook with touch, with a pen, convertible with the Android Store and Chrome OS. That's a pretty compelling choice for $450-dollars.
Christina: Yea, I used that. That's a good Chromebook and I think you're right. I think it is very compelling. And that's a difficult position to be in, to say what is your App Store or what is your experience story on either an iPad Pro or a Windows machine that makes this better than what you hear.
Leo: Yea. I mean I think the iPad is a great Words with Friends machine but I would—we have a lot of the journalists who come on including Harry McCracken, use iPad Pros as their main machine. And I just feel, it feels painful.
Christina: Yea, I'm starting to see more people do it. I don't think I would be able to do it but I do think that with the keyboards, the new iPad Pros. I have a 9.7. The other one, the big, the 13" is too big. It's a very powerful machine and I think Word on the iPad is fantastic and you can do a lot of stuff with that. And the split screen stuff does work very well. And some of the creative apps from people that I talked to who are more creative than I am or at least have better drawing skills than I do really like things with the Apple Pencil and can do a lot of work on it. But I don't know if it's—I don't think I'd be more productive on an iPad than I would be on a computer, whether it was Windows or a Mac. But I do think you can be a lot more productive than you might initially expect which might just be the point of these ads which from—in fairness to Apple, I think that this is strictly a YouTube campaign. I don't think that these are actually going to be airing on television. That doesn't necessarily make them any better but that puts them at a slightly different qualitative thing in the Apple Marketing hierarchy of YouTube ads are a little bit less than television ads.
Leo: Do you think that Apple might have painted itself into a corner? Because they don't—I mean their cycles are a year. They don't have a huge range of products. They've kind of really doubled down on certain kinds of pathways. And on the PC side and on the Chromebook side, you're seeing much more vibrant ecosystems, much faster cycles. Android phones, I look at something like this Surface Studio, this Microsoft Touch hybrid thing. It's probably a limited market but the fact is there's much more choice out there and I feel like Apple's almost a monoculture and it's going to hurt it in the long run because they can't throw things against the wall in the way that the Chromebook industry, the Android industry, the Windows industry can do. Is that, does that make sense? What do you think, Devindra?
Devindra: Yea, I think it's—Apple's in a really strange place because they've been so innovative for so long with the iPhone and the iPad and that's all worked out really well for them. And it feels like things have been really kind of static for the last couple years. You know the biggest thing they announced was the Apple Watch and they didn't even quite know what to do with that.
Leo: It was almost inevitable, right? The success of the iPhone—the worst thing that could happen to a company is a massive success like the iPhone.
Devindra: Yep. And it's the innovation innovator's dilemma. I think there's a name for that. But, yea in cases like this, Apple has in the past just kind of killed its starlings. When the iPhone came out, we knew it was going to kill the iPod when the iPhone came out and that ended up happening eventually but Apple could do that as a company. But now they've gotten so, they've been living off of iPhone profits for so long and that's been so good for them, I don't know what they can do that would be hugely transformative moving forward. And even basic things too, like the Apple TV I think they finally started doing some stuff with it but there's still no 4K version yet. There's still a lot that still hasn't fully lived up to its potential either. So they're in a weird spot right now and you just look at the last batch of MacBooks. They weren't that interesting.
Leo: And yet, their stock is at a record high. The company's the most valuable company in the world. Their profits are through the roof. They sold 75 million iPhones last quarter. It's not like a failing company but I just—
Christina: No, but that's the problem though. When you have all those successes, it makes it harder to take chances and to be more nimble because you have so much more at stake.
Leo: This article from Bloomberg, Alex Webb and Alex Sherman writing, Apple Struggles to Make Big Deals, Hampering Strategy Shifts.
Christina: I have a big problem with that article.
Leo: Yea, ok, good. So let's talk because I've never heard this particular point of view. So tell me what your problem is. What is the article saying and what are your problems with it?
Christina: Well, the article is basically saying that they don't make enough big deals and should be working with more M&A advisors and big banks to acquire big companies and that they need to make, they need to buy Netflix. Basically that's what the article is saying. They need to buy Netflix because that's the only way that they're going to be innovative in the fact that they have historically—Beats was the biggest acquisition at $3-billion dollars. You know most of their acquisitions have been under $500-million. They make mostly smaller acquisitions but that's the problem and that's holding them back. I think that thesis in and on its face is untrue. I mean you can make arguments that maybe they should be as a company making bigger strategic bets in other ways. But I don't think for instance that Apple spending $19-billion dollars on WhatsApp the way that Facebook did would have in any way opened them up to a new market or would have helped them in any conceivable way. I don't think that Apple making some of the acquisitions that some other companies do would change anything. Buying Netflix, A, that's not possible. If that was possible it would have been years ago. But it's not a possibility. They would have to spend—do I think they should spend their entire cash reserves to buy Netflix because they want to get into video? No. I mean I think that makes very little sense. You wanted to talk about buying the Walt Disney Company or buying Time-Warner which was apparently something they discussed at one point, that might make more sense that they were trying to do that. But I think that the argument that the article's making is that the reason that they're not as innovative is that they're not making big enough acquisitions, and I just don't think that's the case at all. I think I would—if you could show me one acquisition that they missed out on, that would have ended up paying huge dividends for them, and if you could also show me conceivable proof that the reason that they didn't get that acquisition was because they weren't willing to pay, that might be one thing. But as it stands, I mean I think John Gruber did a pretty decent analysis of this too. You know this was a lot of M&A people complaining that Apple doesn't do enough.
Leo: Well, but it was also—I mean I think the revelation of it was that Apple is arrogant when it comes to market. They don't work with investment bankers. They dictate terms.
Leo: They say take it or leave it. This isn't how you make deals. They have the money.
Christina: I mean you're not wrong but again, I mean I would feel a lot better about that supposition if you could show me what's a big deal they lost out on.
Leo: Yea, what should they buy, right?
Christina: Because again, you look at the big acquisitions that Google and Facebook have made and even some of the ones that Microsoft has made. Microsoft made the great acquisition of LinkedIn, you know, $25-billion dollars or whatever that was or was it more than that? That made sense to Microsoft strategically. That would not make sense for Apple strategically. So you know, other than – I mean I look at that and see investment makers upset that they're not letting enough deal flow and also investors that are mad that Apple didn't buy Netflix.
Leo: It sounds like sour grapes, yea.
Christina: Netflix isn't going to sell anyway. Like Netflix is not going to sell. I don't—
Leo: In a way the article tanks itself because after they show the graph of the big dean famines and how little money Apple spent, they say, "Instead of closing big deals, Cook has so far focused on growing Apple's services businesses, including Apple Music, the App Store and iCloud. That's beginning to work, with the company recently forecasting that annual revenue from those operations will top $50 billion." They made $23 billion dollars last quarter alone on services. So gee, this has been a terrible strategy.
Devindra: Sorry for reading this article.
Ed: Basically Apple is in the position now that Microsoft was in in around 2006. They were you know, the cloud stuff was taking off but nobody could really see it yet.
Leo: They were a dominant monopoly in desktop software and operating systems. And they were minting money.
Ed: And they were using that to build another business, another cloud business and diversify themselves. And so what you have right now with Microsoft is a company that has 10 or 12 different businesses that are each worth several billion dollars of revenue per quarter. You know, that is really—well, 7 or 8 that are worth at least a billion dollars per quarter and several of them that are worth much more than that. And as a result, they've managed to be successful even when many people had written them off. Apple is, Apple can coast on the kind of growth scenarios that you just described, things like services, for another 10 years, continuing to grow in a way that would be healthy for any other company except for the fact that they're the largest corporation in the world. And they need to find, they need to diversify because at some point, the iPhone is going to become the next iPod and like you said, with the innovators dilemma there, they need to find another hit in their—but when you get Bloomberg and other publications, they are writing for investors. They are writing for people who are buying stocks. They're not writing for the people that buy the products and they're not writing for the people who make the products. They do have a—so the point about making deals is just well, that's traditionally the way that smaller companies get larger. But Apple, they're so huge. Really there's almost no companies that you can think of that they could buy that would allow them to actually grow.
Devindra: Although, maybe some good options would be the companies that they've consistently failed to make deals with, right? So like the Time-Warner thing kind of made sense. We've been hearing them having a lot of trouble trying to form deals with cable networks for some sort of like over the top Apple TV content distribution there. So that's where I think it'd be good. As we're pointing out, Apple's going to be in a good place for a while. That's what Tim Cook is good at. But it's also like, yea, Microsoft back a decade ago, Balmer was really good at kind of making money at a certain point but not as much the big ideas and the big innovations than we've seen Microsoft make some big shifts with Satya Nadella. What does Apple need to get that mojo back?
Leo: It's interesting. I'm looking at, and again, you mentioned that stock prices isn't anything by any means, but I'm looking at Microsoft's- I screwed up the graph somehow of stock price. And the period that you mentioned, they've been flat for years. Microsoft's big stock growth was in the late 90s. They've been flat for years and then—so this is the big growth here. Then flat, flat, flat, flat, flat. Then along comes Satya Nadella and a new attention to the cloud and Microsoft's been really on a tear over the last three years.
Devindra: Imagine that.
Leo: Yea. So it is very telling. I remember for years we said, "Well Microsoft stock? Yawn." So there is something to be said for that strategy. What would you do, though, if you're Apple? This is challenging. You can only sell so—there's only so many people in the world you can sell iPhones too.
Ed: And there's no way to dig up Steve Jobs and get him to come back.
Devindra: Invest in AI and replicate Steve Jobs.
Leo: Replicate, yea.
Devindra: That's what you do.
Leo: All right, let's take a break—go ahead, Christina.
Christina: I was going to say when we have seen them try to go into other things, you know the car project has apparently completely changed courses. So it's a difficult thing because sometimes things seem to work and sometimes they don't. It's hard.
Leo: Does Apple's secrecy hurt it because I mean I am sure there are many projects going on in Apple R&D. There's a lot of R&D going on but no one knows. So all we see is the big blank building and the success with the iPhone. They may have the next big thing.
Christina: I think it hurts but I think that the secrecy helps it as much as it hurts. I think if anything, it evens out because people anticipate things and wait in a way that you might not if you outlined exactly what you're working on the way that say Google does.
Leo: It's a great marketing tool, that's for sure. In fact they're hurt a little bit by all these supply chain leaks now because the last couple of iPhone announcements, we knew what we were going to get ahead of time. It took all the fun out of it. Our show today brought to you by—having fun with this great panel of people from Ed Bott at ZDNet to Christina Warren from Gizmodo, Engadget's Devindra Hardawar. You guys are great. I like to have panels in the studio with us but somehow Skype doesn't seem to slow any of you down. You do great and I appreciate it.
Leo: Our show today brought to you by a fantastic product called the TrackR. It's a Bluetooth tracker. I think a lot of times—I want to kind of do a little education on the TrackR. People look at it and they assume, "Oh, that's a GPS device." It's not because you couldn't—that would be crazy talk. You'd have to charge it up every night. It wouldn't be a very useful tracker. And it couldn't be the size of a quarter and it couldn't weight just a few grams. What this is, is it's a Bluetooth device that pairs to your GPS in your smartphone. It helps you locate anything you lose. According to Newsweek, the average American spends 55 minutes a day looking for stuff they own but can't find. 55 minutes a day for looking for lost keys and wallets and luggage and musical instruments and bicycles and pets. 55 minutes a day and all you've got to do is put a TrackR on them. You can pair up to 10 TrackRs to your smartphone. It's Bluetooth LE so the battery lasts a good long time. And TrackRs one of the few Bluetooth tracking devices that has a replaceable battery so you know it really bothers me that some of these other devices, when the battery dies you're expected to throw it out and buy another one. Not the TrackR. Easy to pop in a new battery and get another year. You can customize two-way separation alerts. So if you leave your keys, let's say I put it on my keys. If I leave the keys behind the phone goes, "Hey, you left the keys behind." If I leave my phone behind, the TrackR beeps at me. There's even a button on the TrackR you can press that will make your phone scream even if it's silenced. That is really useful. It's about the only thing I ever use the Apple Watch for frankly. You don't need an Apple Watch. You can get a $30-dollar TrackR to do it for you. Now the neatest thing about the TrackR, they're selling like hotcakes. I talked to them a little while ago. I think they were doing 100,000 new TrackRs a week. 3.5 million devices shipped. And that's a good thing for you as a TrackR owner because of the TrackR crowd GPS network, the largest in the world. In fact if you could show that map and scroll out, you'll see there's TrackRs all over the world. So here's why this is a good thing for you. When you get out of 100 foot range, obviously Bluetooth isn't going to track. So you'll have on your phone the last place it saw the phone. But what if somebody picks up your keys and mails them to Malaysia? Why? I don't know Because there's bad people. Well, now you think your keys were left in Las Vegas but they're actually in Malaysia. How would you know that? Well, there's tons of TrackR owners in Malaysia and if any one of them walks by your keys with the TrackR, their phone goes, "Oh, I see Leo's keys," and sends you a message. So this is really awesome. It's like you have 3.5 million people helping you find your things. Go to thetrackr.com and never lose your possessions again. Actually the hardest thing to find will be the site because they spell it funny. T-H-E-T-R-A-C-K-R, no E at the end there. No E-R, just T-R-A-C-K-R, thetracker.com. Use the promo code TWIT and here's what we're going to do for you. Get all the TrackRs you need. You can get them engraved. They're anodized aluminum so they can engrave them. They even have a nice UV LED printing thing. See, this TrackR has the TWiT logo on it. It really looks good. So you could have your picture on it. Whatever you want. So get the whole order together and then as you're checking out use the promo code TWiT and they'll throw in an extra TrackR just for free, just for fun. Isn't that nice. TheTrackR.com. Promo code TWiT. Get your free TrackR Bravo today.
Leo: We're going to have more with our great panel in a moment but before we do that I think we should take a look at a lovely little movie that Victor has made for us. Victor Bognot, one of our editors. Every week he watches every show and puts together a little cut down of some of the best moments.
Narrator: Previously on TWiT.
Jason Howell: We've heard about Apple's foray into original content for the Apple TV and now we have a trailer for Planet of the Apps. It's basically Shark Tank but for app developers.
Megan Morrone: I think I already do this show. It's called iOS today. We wear hats.
Jason: Oh. That's better than right there.
Megan: So, yea.
Narrator: This Week in Google.
Leo: Let's all encrypt. What do you say? Keybase.io, these are secure chats. You also have a secure file system that are totally encrypted using public Encrypto.
Narrator: The New Screen Savers.
Leo: I'm going to give you a little demo of the June Smart Oven. This is an oven that connects to the internet, your smartphone. It controls all of the cooking processes, which burners are on, whether it's broiling or baking. What temperature it is at. So let me check the cookies. Of course I could just look to my left and look in the oven. But why do that when you've got a video of the cookies cooking.
Leo: In live real time.
Narrator: Tech just like you like it.
Alex Wilhelm: Is there an age minimum for old media status? I'm kind of curious about that.
Leo: You're young old. You're one of those young people who's old. Do you know what I'm saying.
Alex: I think so.
Leo: Have you ever had the early bird special at Denny's?
Alex: I don't know what that is.
Leo: Oh, you ought to go. It's fantastic.
Leo: We're all going. We're all going. Jason Howell, what's happening next week on TWiT?
Jason: Hey, thanks, Leo. Here's a look at a few things that we're going to be keeping an eye on in the week ahead and to be completely honest, it's a pretty quiet week. Mobile World Congress begins the week after so it literally dried up like a vacuum everything else. But I'll do my best here. On Monday, February 20th, Tesla will reportedly begin test production of the highly anticipated Model 3, ahead of the full scale production that takes place later this year. The target release date is still this July but according to CEO Elon Musk, that could change. The suppliers can't meet Tesla's requirements in time. On Wednesday, February 22nd, Google opens up the application process for this year's Google I/O Developers Conference. That takes place in Mountain View in May. Would be attendees must visit the site to register for the lottery and if chosen, pay $900-dollars for the ticket. And on Friday, February 24th, those of you in the UK who've been waiting with baited breath for Google to make the Really Blue Google Pixel phone available to you, wait no longer. Pre-orders are open now and it's a limited edition color so get on it fast and look, I told you it's a slow week this week. So scheduled events, there aren't a whole lot of them. Right there, that's what we have. Megan Morrone and I will cover all this and a whole lot more all week on Tech News Today, each and every weekday at 4:00 PM Pacific. That's a look at the week ahead. Back to you, Leo.
Leo: Thank you, Jason. Also host of All About Android. That's why he's excited about—he has a Really Blue Pixel. What do you carry, Devindra, these days? Are you iPhone or Android?
Devindra: I still have an iPhone 6S.
Devindra: I think I'm going to refuse to go for a new iPhone for now. But I also have a Pixel XL I'm playing around with.
Leo: He's a refuse-nic. And I know what you have, Christina. That's obvious.
Christina: Why is that obvious (laughing)?
Leo: Because I can tell. You're an iPhone 7S person all the way. Plus, I mean.
Christina: Yea, the 7 Plus. It's rose gold of course, it's pink. Of course.
Leo: See? I knew. Ed, are you still rocking that Windows Phone?
Ed: I haven't used a Windows Phone in over 2 years.
Leo: That's mean. I'm sorry.
Ed: I have a—no, I have a brand new, relatively new, iPhone 7 Plus and I also have a Nexus 6P here that I've been using for about, I don't know, the last 4 months or so. But I'm in the iPhone ecosystem for a while now because that's where all the interesting stuff is happening. You know it's a theme that I keep coming back to. About 10 or 12 years ago people may have said that Windows machines were boring but that's where all the developers were and that's where you had to get—well, now, if you want to get stuff done, iOS is where the developers are.
Leo: Yea, I guess that's sort of true. I hate to say it because I like Android a lot. And I carry both because that's my job. If I had to choose though, I think I'd probably go with the Pixel. The reason I bring that up is it's going to be that crazy season again. Mobile World Congress is coming up. We're going to see new Samsung phones. Next month the Galaxy S8, not at Mobile World Congress but after. HTC is doing something interesting. Apparently they're eschewing the low end and they're going to go with high end hardware. They're going to kind of follow the Apple route. Apple's always avoided the inexpensive phones. This, they announced it a month or so ago and I'm hoping we're going to get it soon. I ordered one, you know, because I want to review it. This is the HTC Ultra. It's all about you, the letter U. And there's some personalization features and so forth. HTC's always had interesting audio stuff. They also have a second scree with icons on it. They've also abandoned the headphone jack. They're going to have a Type-C jack but one of the things that they're justifying that with is this kind of weird—and I don't know how it's going to work, audio thing where you put in the headphones and it creates a personal audio profile. I don' t know if you have to do, as you have to do with Samsung, a hearing test. Samsung does that. Or if it just somehow knows. It sounds like it just somehow knows. Because your inner ear is as unique as your fingerprint, HTC U Sonic Audio Platform analyzes your inner ear and automatically adapts the sound profile to optimize your listening experience.
Devindra: Sure, ok.
Leo: Sure, whatever. Sure. Sure. It's not a thing. But maybe it is. Maybe I just didn't know. I bet you have to do a hearing test. Why did I bring this up? Oh, I know why. They're so grateful that I pre-ordered one that they sent me a backpack with all these toys in it (laughing), and a personalized thank you note. Yea, with little Android toys and a thermos bottle. Now, I don't think—I bet you they're sending this to everybody who orders one of these things because they're expensive.
Christina: How much was it?
Leo: You know, iPhone price. Whatever that is. $749 probably. Yea, $749.
Ed: When I ordered a Nexus 6P a year ago—
Leo: Yea, they sent you a Lego charging stand, right?
Ed: Yea, the whole Lego thing there.
Leo: That was a Christmas card or something. I can't remember. But I think this is—I would like—the one company that will never do this is Apple. They're not sending out 75.8 million backpacks, I can tell you that right now. But I think these other companies are doing anything they can to get your attention at this point.
Devindra: Please buy my thing. Please.
Christina: If you buy a pink MacBook, you get the pink rose gold sticker. So there's something.
Leo: Wait a minute. You do?
Christina: Yea, the color—you get gold with the gold, pink with the pink.
Leo: Oh, I didn't know that.
Christina: Black with the Mac Pro.
Leo: I got my black sticker.
Christina: I have a whole collection of their stickers.
Leo: I don't have the Mac Pro anymore. I gave it to Nathan Olivares-Giles but I kept the sticker.
Christina: Exactly. Exactly.
Leo: That was the best part.
Christina: I reviewed it. I reviewed it and I kept the stickers.
Leo: Every time we send Christina something, the stickers don't come back. Do they complain about that?
Christina: No, they don't.
Ed: Drop the stickers. Take the cannoli.
Leo: (Laughing) Anyway, mid-March they say they'll be shipping the HTC U Ultra. It's pretty and you know the real problem HTC has is what everybody has, is you can't—it's a glass slab. What are you going to do?
Devindra: Yea, all the phones are getting bigger now. The Android phones in particular, they're all going to have really, really thin bezels and really big screens and that's pretty much it.
Ed: And Google is trying to establish that there is a market for high-end Android devices but I'm not sure—you know, Android's proposition has always been we're half the price or a third of the price of an iPhone and the Chinese companies are doing a really good job of continuing that.
Leo: Absolutely. ZTE, Huawei, yes.
Ed: All of them doing that so the idea—you know, when I look—in fact, I looked. I was saying, I'm going to buy a phone here. Is it going to be an iPhone 7 Plus or a Pixel XP, XL? And they're the same price. Well, guess what? I'm going to get the one that's going to maintain its resale value and is going to have all the developers writing apps for it. It's also a really nice phone. But at the same time, I just don't understand whether there really is a market for high end Android devices.
Christina: Oh, I think there is. I just think that it's going to be specialized and probably—I mean I think that's like Samsung's market. I think that until the Note 7 exploded, that was it. And I think that the S8 is going to have a challenge because of the branding problem that Samsung has. But I think that's where Samsung—
Leo: I've think they've gotten over that. They even decided to keep the Note brand for the Note next year.
Christina: Well, we'll see. We'll see if they keep the Note brand or not. I don't know if they will.
Leo: They said they will, didn't they?
Christina: I mean they said but we'll see. I don't know. They have a lot of—
Leo: I think they transcended it. I think people—don't you think people are waiting for the S8 and look forward to the S8?
Devindra: Oh yea, but not another Note.
Christina: Exactly. The S8's fine. I think the Note would be a problem because—
Leo: Don't you think the Note will be the safest phone ever made? Seriously?
Leo: Well it ought to be. If you were Samsung, don't you think they would bend over backwards to make sure it doesn't explode?
Devindra: The S8 definitely will be, yea.
Leo: I think it will be the safest phone ever made.
Christina: I mean I think that's going to be the interesting thing, how do they market it and how much the marketing is around the safely.
Leo: Well you saw at their press conferences, we're going to have an 8 step program. We're going to do all this stuff nobody's ever done before to make sure they're safe.
Christina: Right, but my broader point is, I mean Samsung has a brand. And HTC had this a little bit but they never quite got there, where people buy a Samsung, they're buying it for Samsung. They're not buying it for Android.
Leo: No, I agree. That's the brand, isn't it? It's not Android.
Christina: And so I think that is your high end Android phone.
Leo: I see a lot of people, maybe it's the people I hang around, the nerds I hang around with. I see a lot of people say, "I love the Pixel."
Christina: Yea, the Pixel's a great phone.
Leo: It's about the most boring phone ever. It really—there was an article, I can't remember who did the article, got an interview with Google and the engineers who designed the Pixel and all the efforts they put into choosing and naming, the colors and the chamfered edges. And it was really, it was so clearly just an attempt to say, "No, really, it's not a boring phone." But look at it.
Devindra: It's really boring. I love it though.
Leo: It's my favorite Android phone right now.
Devindra: I think I love it because it's fully embraced how boring it is and—
Devindra: What can we do to the back?
Christina: It's Normcore. It's great.
Devindra: It's Normcore.
Leo: A Normcore phone. It exactly is.
Christina: A Normcore phone. Normcore Android. But hey, it's great and people who have it seem to love it. I haven't spent enough time with it to give it a full assessment but what little time I have, it's a great phone.
Leo: It's a great camera. They found a great camera. It competes with the iPhone.
Christina: I think it's the same sensor as the iPhone.
Leo: But everybody uses those Sony sensors. It's the secret sauce after the sensor, right?
Christina: Exactly, and that's the thing. They've done—I mean Samsung does good software too, but yea, Google really nailed it. Which is very impressive. So, good on them.
Leo: By the way, the chatroom agrees. Christina, you win the title for, the title. The crown. Normcore Android. That will be the title of the show. Or Normcore phone. We haven't—we're going to battle it out. Normcore Phone. I like it. One thing HTC is doing which is interesting, I feel like they're on the precipice of bankruptcy. Maybe I'm wrong. But this is not going to help. They're offering free one year, what they call, "Uh-oh Protection" for a cracked screen or water damage, free replacement.
Devindra: Didn't they do that before? It's been around for a while.
Leo: It's very consumer friendly. Oh, they did this last time?
Christina: Yea, but hey, you're spending $750 dollars on a phone, that's great because it's like having your Apple Care built in. I like that.
Leo: Yea, that's what they said. All right—
Ed: But it does look like the same thing is happening in the high end Android device category that has happened in the PC category. If you look, there's been this weeding out of the—it used to be that you could go down and you could count the top 10 PC makers and you have Toshiba down there and Fujitsu and their numbers wouldn't be that big but they were profitable and everything. But those guys are kind of disappearing. Toshiba in particular is in big trouble and Fujitsu's gotten out of the business and Sony's gotten out of the business. And you're getting this consolidation where the ones at the top are still doing ok. The Samsung—
Leo: The same thing happened in televisions, didn't it?
Ed: Yea. Yea, the same thing happened in televisions. So, it is sort of something that happens in technology. But as the market is growing and expanding at a huge rate, you've got room for this, rising tides lifts all boats and etcetera. But once it starts to flatten, they you know, if you're in position number 6, boy, you're in trouble. And I don't know where HTC is in all this but with Huawei and LG in there underneath Samsun, geez, it's not encouraging.
Devindra: It's not good. I wouldn't be surprised by this time next year if somebody buys HTC because things are kind of rough for them. Yea, their best stuff right now is their partnership with Valve, for VIVE and everything.
Leo: Well somebody said, "Do you think they make money on the VIVE?" I mean, how many VIVEs do you sell?
Christina: I don't think so. But I think it has mind share. I think that it's at least, I agree with Devindra. That's their thing right now is that partnership.
Devindra: And that's far more innovative than anything that Apple's doing right now, honestly. Like Apple has no foray into VR yet and I'm sure we'll see something soon. They need an OLED screen on the phone for that so that will probably all be tied into the iPhone 8s or whatever they're calling it. But you know what? Valve is sitting there. That's a company with a ton of money and with a partnership with a company like this, they should just buy HTC. Just make some Valve bones.
Christina: They don't even need to buy all of HTC. Just buy the VR division and maybe partner with the phone divisions they're interested in. Because HTC is a lot of things.
Devindra: They're already separated, yea.
Leo: So, HTC doesn't even make it in the top 10 cell phone manufactures. Top 5 are Samsung, Apple, Huawei, one of the Chinese companies, OPPO, another Chinese company, BBK Communication Equipment which I'm thinking probably is India but I don't know. Those 5 together sell more phones than the rest total.
Ed: Yea, a lot of low-end devices in there too.
Leo: Yes, yes,
Ed: For emerging markets.
Leo: BBK's Chinese I guess. I'm sorry. The Chinese companies, just as they have with television, they're about to take over from Samsung and LG. Sony's long gone, the Japanese companies are long gone. It's going to be TCL and what's the other one? Hisense.
Christina: Hisense, bit TV makers, yep. Vizio's still.
Leo: Vizio's Chinese, now. Good news.
Christina: I know it is. I know.
Leo: They just got sold (laughing).
Christina: Yep. Has that closed officially? But yea, no.
Leo: Maybe not yet, but yea. Ok. This is a good question. How many of you read Mark Zuckerberg's 6,000 communique on the future of Facebook?
Devindra: Didn't do my homework.
Leo: I tried.
Christina: I read it.
Leo: Did you? Ok, Christina, you win. Congratulations. What the hell does he mean?
Ed: I didn't know there was going to be a test.
Christina: Bots will save us. I don't know.
Leo: Building Global Community. He published this on Thursday. You know, Facebook's mission statement was like one sentence. To connect the world and make it better through connection or something like that. Somehow this turned into a 6,000-word manifesto. I tried, I really did.
Devindra: Well he really wants to be president, guys. He really, really wants to be president.
Leo: Do you think that's what this is? He said he's not running.
Devindra: Oh, yea. Oh, yea.
Leo: That's what you do if you're running.
Devindra: They're not even hiding it. All these campaign trips, these short trips to everywhere, meeting the people. It's pretty clear.
Leo: You know who else I'm convinced wants to be president?
Christina: Who's that?
Leo: Mark Cuban. I think that's what the—remember, there was that Trump tweet out of nowhere slamming Mark Cuban, out of nowhere? That's because Mark's running as apparently is President Trump strangely enough. And then Cuban at the All-Star game came out in a jersey with the number 46 on it. Coincidence?
Ed: Well he's a very good provocateur.
Leo: I guess so. I would vote for Mark Zuckerberg. I know that's nuts but—
Christina: I don't think that I would but I'd have to hear his position on the issues.
Leo: And who is he running against?
Christina: I don't know.
Leo: He's a nice guy.
Christina: That's the question. He's a very nice guy. I just—I don't know if he had the personality type.
Leo: He's one of us. Christina, he's one of us.
Devindra: That's why he's bad. That's why he's terrible.
Christina: I mean I wouldn't run for president. I wouldn't want any of you guys to run either.
Leo: You don't want me to run for president. Oh, no. I'm the worst.
Ed: Does he have a private email server? That's really—
Leo: You know what? It turns out that's ok now. Didn't you get the memo? That's ok now.
Devindra: It's only ok when you're doing it. That's how it goes. But for Zuckerberg, I wouldn't be surprised in 8 years or even somewhere down the line that he'd be thinking of this because you know, everything we've read about his personality, reading his biographies and everything, it seems like he's changed quite a bit from the early days, from his college days. He's built Facebook to be a really interesting and fascinating company. I don't think it's going to save the world like he thinks it will but he's a very interesting person to consider in that sort of role because what he's doing at Facebook is the—that jump for Instagram. Like, you know, paying that sort of money I think ended up being a very smart move for him so there's certain things I think he's doing that could be interesting and smart for the president.
Christina: Well he took a company public that was already making a lot of money and made it incredibly profitable. Like when you compare Facebook to Twitter or to Snapchat or to any others, he's run a very good business. I don't disagree. I also agree with you, Devindra. I have the same immediate gut reaction. Well, this is definitely part of a stump speech. This is definitely the manifesto that says, laying out my candidacy. But—
Leo: It used to be the way that you would do that by the way is you'd write a book, right? Every president up to Obama, you write a book.
Christina: The power of books, yea, exactly.
Leo: But now, Zuckerberg is a child of our century and he wrote a Facebook manifesto.
Christina: He's writing medium posts on the phone medium that Facebook has. Facebook has pages.
Leo: This is instant news, isn't it? You're right. The only reason I know it's on Facebook is because I have all these ads for recommended games and—(laughing).
Christina: Right. But other than that it looks just like Medium. It's great.
Leo: If you just cut the right—if I just make it bigger and cut the right part off it looks just like Medium. This is why I have a Surface Studio. I can cut off the ads on the right.
Christina: You can cut off the ads.
Leo: So these are the 5 questions that he wants us to answer. How do we help people build supportive communities? By the way, note the use of the word community. How do we help people build a safe community? How do we help people build an informed community? How do we help people build a civically-engaged community and how do we help people build an inclusive community? I mean these are all nice anodyne sentiments. There's nothing wrong with any of this. I don't know if it inspires? I'm not going to run to the barricades over it but—
Devindra: Yea, it fits in to sort of what we were talking about, the need to kind of change how we are looking at online community and communication in a way. I'm not a fan of how much Facebook had basically taken over the internet. They have instant articles and everything. I love the open internet but I don't know. Maybe at some point we'll need some sort of ways to kind of make it a more welcoming platform in general.
Leo: I have mixed feelings on this. And I always told people who use Medium or Facebook to publish that really you ought to own you own and have your own website. That's really old fashioned. But—
Christina: No, but I mean—
Leo: Facebook does not replace the internet. There's still an open internet. It's just one of the things you can do on the open internet.
Christina: Well, it was what they tried to do in India. They wanted to replace the internet.
Leo: Well, ok, and maybe this is a little devil's advocacy. I remember talking to Om Malik who said this is, rejected it out of hand saying that it is just a form of imperialism and India knows better after the Raj and the English colonization of India of not to go for these freebees. But, from Mark's point of view, he's looking at a giant population that has no internet, can't afford an internet. And he's trying to find a way to subsidize part of the internet. Obviously he can't do the whole thing but he gives you Wikipedia and women's health centers and things like that in addition to Facebook.
Christina: Of course. And that's a wonderful goal. I don't think anybody is discounting that. But when you can also say—
Leo: Well the Indian government did. They said no.
Christina: Exactly, because as—I'm just saying that the broader picture is, oh, that's a nice thing to do. But that's not coming without strings. That's coming with strings where your saying, "We will be deciding what people see and we will be the tunnel in which you see it." And that is a very different thing than saying, "We are going to give free data access to anyone and they can access it any way they want." No they're saying, "We want you to access it through our lens." And that's, you know, that's understandable. That's saying, "We want to get people online but not because we want them to be online." Well, maybe that's part of it. "We want them to be online through Facebook." And so yes, I understand why that was rejected because it does come across as very imperialistic where you're saying, "Well people are going to be gaining access to things they might not have had access to," but instead you are creating a whole new class of customers who are only going to know the internet as you and not know it as anything else.
Leo: Does Google's Loon project-- by the way they discovered they can do it with 10 balloons now instead of many more. Does Google's Loon project have the same strings or is it just internet? They're doing those balloons, weather balloons.
Christina: It's not quite as—it doesn't have quite as many stings, pun intended, as I think what Facebook was trying to do with India, but I have some of the same concerns. I think that there, Google, except for like the big market that they're noticeably absent in has an advantage in that they basically touch every piece of the internet whether you are through Chrome or Android or not, you're touching Google's ad servers.
Leo: Yea, you don't have to go to Google to participate in Google. You're doing it all the time.
Devindra: But you know, even beyond Facebook's free internet offer, the way Facebook is built today, everything about instant articles, the way they've been pushing Facebook video on media companies, they've definitely kind of insinuated themselves into the process of media. And a lot of people just read these by going through their Facebook feed, right, instead of even going to a publication website, they'll end up on something on Facebook. That's what's worrying me.
Leo: No, I understand, absolutely. The last 4 paragraphs of Mark's letter sound very much like a speech one would give if one wanted to run for president. History has had many moments like today. If I had some echo and some crowd cheering, could you help me with that, Bryant? As we've made our great leaps from tribes to cities to nations, we have always had to build social infrastructure like communities, media and governments for us to thrive and reach the next level. At each step we learned how to come together to solve our challenges and accomplish greater things than we could alone. We have done it before and we will do it again. Uh-oh, now you're really in trouble. He's going to quote Lincoln. I am reminded of President Lincoln's remarks during the American Civil War: "We can succeed only by concert. This is the worst quote he could pick. It is not 'can any of us imagine better?' but, 'can we all do better?' The dogmas of the quiet—this might as well be in Latin. The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty. It might be piled high but I don't know if it's difficulty. And we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. It's an honor to be on this journey with you. Thank you for being part of this community, and thanks for everything you do to make the world more open and connected. Now he left off, God bless you and God bless the United States of America. That's very important. Thank you.
Ed: He could really have used Lyn Manuel Miranda to—
Leo: A little rap?
Ed: To put some music around some of that. You know—
Devindra: It's still early yet.
Leo: (Laughing) It really does sound like a stump speech. It really does.
Ed: It really does sound like a stump speech. On the other hand there were—
Leo: It sounds like a nerdy stump speech.
Ed: Well, yea, but you know what? He said all the right words in those 5 statements. They might have been clichéd, but they were the things that I wanted to hear and—
Leo: Well, that's why I'd vote for him.
Ed: And they were the things that I haven't necessarily heard from the other tech CEOs who made the pilgrimage to New York and didn't come back saying we agree, we disagree, we have a different vision, we have the same vision. They all just sort of went there, sat there uncomfortably and then came out and kept their mouths shut. And so at least he's talking. Now, he's talking, it's in platitudes but they're good platitudes.
Leo: And I don't blame the tech CEO. I don't blame anybody because it's all baffling. And I think that if you're a CEO, especially of a publicly held company, it's very hard to understand what your duty is.
Leo: And I think this is really a terra nova for everybody. We're just all going—(laughing).
Devindra: Unless you're IBM—
Leo: Well, Ginni Rometty's another matter entirely. Yea, I think he's running. I mean after reading the end of this, that's—and I would vote for him only because he's—you know, this is like a Harvard student report. You know, he's showing off a little bit. He's using big words. It's not deep. I don't think it's deeply thought. Sorry, Mark. But it doesn't feel like—
Devindra: Well any thought right now would be an improvement, ok, so.
Leo: Yea. I don't know. I think we could do worse.
Ed: He is not old enough to be president.
Leo: No, ok. Get ready. He will be. He'll be 35 on August 2019, or 2020, he turns 35. So he will be able to file, right at the deadline.
Ed: But he's clearly playing a long game here.
Leo: It might not be 2020. It might be 2024. He's young enough that he could do that.
Ed: Or 2034.
Leo: He's got 40 good years in him.
Devindra: He's got some time.
Leo: He's 40 years younger than President Trump. So, you know.
Devindra: There's that. I also kind of think, imagine if Bill Gates decided to run.
Leo: What did you think of Bill Gates' statement that robots should be taxed? Let's take a break and then I want to ask about that. I thought that was really—well it's definitely out of the box.
Devindra: It's interesting.
Leo: You know, we're talking about universal basic income, really kind of trying to figure out what is this new world where jobs are disappearing to automation, artificial intelligence has spread like a peanut butter over everything. What does this new world look like and how do you survive it? And I commend people like Bill Gates for at least trying stuff. I don't know what economists might thing. But we'll take a break and talk about that. Our show today, by the way, great panel. I've got to give you all praise. Every time we get together it's so great to have Ed Bott, Christina Warren, Devindra Hardawar. If you're going to talk tech with some people, it's nice to get smart, tuned in, inciteful people and we've got the best. Thank you for being here.
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Leo: So, I don't know if Bill Gates, I don't know if he's just kind of blue sky-ing or if this is like serious but it kind of made sense to me. Maybe that's because I'm not an economist. But he says if robots are going to take our jobs, they ought to be taxed and pay Social Security.
Christina: It's very provocative. It's a great point, a potential point. Like it's, yea.
Devindra: You have to make up for the—exactly. And you'd have to make up the taxes that the workers would have paid but also what is going to happen with all of these people. That's the bigger thing. Like are we going to have to—companies may need to help pay for the training for new types of jobs or something. My pie in the sky thing is eventually a universal basic income, universal basic income which will probably never happen but this is kind of how you get that started.
Christina: Yea, no, I think you're right because so many people are moving to automation even when it doesn't really make sense. Sometimes it totally makes sense to move to automation, in some cases it can actually cost more and not save a huge amount of time because they want to cut down on workforce spending and taxes and other things. And that's all well and good but if you're going to be doing that, I think that's a very interesting idea to say, ok, well, you've got to at least pay for some of the corporate taxes or some of the taxes that you would be missing out on because of this.
Ed: Well the economic concept involved here is called externalities. And it's something that we as a nation—you know, we talked about how the internet was developed without people thinking about the long term consequences, how it was being built. Well, those are externalities. Cars were built without thinking about oh, all the carbon they're going to be putting into the environment or all the roads that are going to have to be built there. So they were giving the car makers were basically given free subsidies early on because they weren't paying for the externalities, the pollution that their devices were emitting that were causing impact on 3rd parties everywhere in the world. So it's nice to have someone thinking early on in the process about building a way to compensate 3rd parties for externalities into the thing. Bill Gates has turned out to be, you know, he's a pretty smart guy. I'll tell you what, I knew him way back when and the transformation that he has made from ruthless capitalist to the guy who is obsessed—he is as obsessed with saving the lives of children now as he was with selling PCs back in 1983. It's amazing.
Leo: Speaking of that, did you see—I mean speaking of saving lives, the Bill and Melinda Gates annual letter this year for their foundation was great. They start with a letter from Warren Buffet to them last December saying, because you know, Buffett made a historically huge, I think the largest donation ever in history to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And he said, now of course a non-profit, a foundation, isn't the same as a business and so an annual report on your profit and so forth isn't the same thing. But it would be nice for me and others to know what you did with my money (laughing). In other words, a score card. And I loved it because Bill and Melinda took him at his word and said ok. They said, "Ten years ago, when we first got word of your gift to the foundation, we were speechless. It was the biggest single gift anyone ever gave anybody for anything. We knew we owed you a fantastic return on your investment." And this is the return that they said. The number of children's lives saved, 122 million since 1990.
Devindra: Big gift.
Leo: You know, and they explain where this number comes from, the number of childhood deaths since 1990, kids under 5 has been cut in half. And in great part because of inoculations that the Gates Foundation has provided worldwide, reducing childhood mortality. Education, nutrition. They say the best deal is vaccinations. Global Vaccination coverage is at its highest than it's ever been. And a lot of this comes from that money that Warren Buffet and Bill and others gave to the Foundation. It's a great letter. So you're right, I think he is a really interesting—it's not like Andrew Carnaghie who felt so guilty about the steel business and busting unions that he built libraries all over the place to assuage his guilt conscience. I think Bill really—I don't think he has anything to apologize for, for the success of Microsoft. It changed the world. And I love it that he says, "I'm going to give it all away." And I think Warren Buffett wants to do the same.
Devindra: And relating it to Zuckerberg, too. Like it's nice that—he's always looked at—like, Mark is looking at him as a role model and that is probably the best news we could see. Like look at their foundation that Zuckerberg and his wife are starting too. So I think with that sort of role model in place, yea. It would be fascinating to see what Zuckerberg could do if he were to run as president eventually.
Leo: I didn't ask you when we were talking about cell phones. Maybe I should bring this up now. Verizon this week said, "Yea, we'll do unlimited too." And now all 4 carriers in the US, 4 big cell phone carriers, offer unlimited data and I remember when AT&T, was it Ralph I think said the worst mistake he ever made when AT&T started selling the iPhone was offering unlimited data. It's his biggest regret. But they're back. They're doing it again.
Christina: Well, it's "unlimited." There's a huge asterisk.
Leo: Wait a minute. You missed, folks who are listening only, you missed the air quotes.
Christina: There's air quotes. I think there's air quotes around unlimited. It's unlimited. It's caveats are very much a part of this.
Leo: Unlimited, it is unlimited but after 22 gigabytes, at least with Verizon, it will slow down a lot.
Christina: Yea, it's 22 gigabytes with Verizon and—
Leo: 28 with T-Mobile.
Christina: 28 with T-Mobile, 23 with Sprint. And they don't guarantee that they'll slow it down, but they say that they can. Then there is the limit of tethering. So if you want to use it for a hotspot, you're limited to 10 gigabytes of LTE.
Leo: But they used to charge for that. That's part of the deal now. So that's good.
Christina: T-Mobile used to charge for that.
Leo: Didn't Verizon? Oh, no, they couldn't right. They had a consent decree.
Christina: Exactly. It was all part of the same thing. And I think AT&T, I'm not sure how it works. I know the AT&T Unlimited Plan does not include tethering at all. But Verizon and Sprint, excuse me, T-Mobile and Sprint used to charge extra if you wanted to use your quote unquote unlimited account with tethering. Now you don't have to. But if you use more than 10 gigabytes, then you get shut down to 3G speed on Verizon and T-Mobile and 2G speeds on Sprint. But I mean look, hell has frozen over, right? Like I don't know about you guys, but I never thought like in 2017 we'd be even remotely talking about, with an asterisk or not, if anything with the word unlimited and Verizon in the same sentence.
Leo: Is it fair to give T-Mobile and John Legere credit for this?
Devindra: For sure.
Christina: Yes. Yes. I would say that he definitely forced everybody else's hand in my opinion. I think that he—and T-Mobile subscribers have gone through the roof. Like they are still very much in 3rd place but like they passed Sprint sometime last year and that was a big deal. And they continue to add new subscribers every single quarter. And I think a lot of it is because John Legere has been so aggressive and T-Mobile has been so aggressive with their pricing that it kind of forced everybody else's hands. And then what happened was when Verizon followed suit which was not expected, at least I was surprised. You know, T-Mobile asked them immediately to follow up and take some of the worst caveats on their plans and make them part of their official thing. Sprint had to make changes and then finally AT&T, who had been a really big hold out, almost as big of a hold out as Verizon, came back and said, "Ok, we'll do an unlimited plan as well." So, yea.
Leo: You know who I want to give credit to?
Christina: Who's that?
Leo: US anti-trust regulators who prevented a T-Mobile Sprint merger, prevented an AT&T T-Mobile merger, who kept 4 companies in play because really it's because of competition.
Christina: I would agree with that. I would agree with that. And then of course, now—
Leo: Well, now it's out the window.
Christina: Now it's officially out the window, and SoftBank, it's very interesting. You know before the rumor that Sprint wanted to—not the rumor, the story was Sprint wanted to buy T-Mobile. And then Spring would basically run the two companies. And now there was a Reuters report that basically indicates that SoftBank is willing to sell itself to Deutsche Telekom, and basically say, "Ok, how much will you give us for Sprint?" which is, we'll see if that would be allowed to happen or not. I mean obviously AT&T was not allowed to buy T-Mobile. Sprint wasn't allowed to buy T-Mobile. But we'll see with the different administration if T-Mobile and Sprint could actually merge.
Devindra: And Christina, you mentioned that you were surprised to see this news, too. I'm actually not that sure about it because I feel like we had to get back to unlimited data. We've been, all these companies have been selling us networks that are supposedly super-fast, crazy fast. In some respects, LTE is faster than most people's home broadband. And we all are basically driving around with super powered—it's like we're driving really, really fast cars and we can just drive them around the block a couple of times. Like we've been incredibly limited with these networks and –
Leo: It's like owning a Ferrari on the 405. You're not going anywhere.
Leo: Or for you guys, the Eastside Expressway or whatever. Long Island.
Christina: Of course you know what's going to happen though, right?
Christina: We all get unlimited data right as they are supposed to start the introduction of 5G and once 5G comes out, I guarantee you, I guarantee you that these unlimited plans will not work with 5G. They're going to start the charging thing all over again. I mean because that's what happened with 3G, right? You had the unlimited plan—
Leo: Unlimited 3G, but if you want LTE.
Christina: But LTE for them to pay more and eventually those companies, people that were on those grandfathered in plans were forced to get the 4G support. But it took a while. And it took like lawyers getting involved and saying, "No, you can't act that way."
Leo: Elon's going to fix this. Elon is going to fix this. We're going to have gigabit internet from satellites, 4,000 satellites rotating around the Earth in a low Earth orbit.
Christina: Yea. And how much is that going to cost, Leo?
Leo: Don't think about it as money (laughing). They did file an application, SpaceX filed an application on Tuesday with the FCC for as many as 1,000 satellites to be launched as soon as 2019. The idea is these are very low Earth orbit. That means low latency, right? And that's been the problem with satellite internet. That's really the big problem. That's why Project Loon is thinking about stratospheric balloons while Mark Zuckerberg is thinking about killer drones. I'm sorry, it's not killer. It's Aquila drones. Because the lower, the better, the less latency. And in fact SpaceX says they think latencies will be 25-35 milliseconds which is better than many terrestrial internet service providers. You think this is pie in the sky?
Leo: (Laughing). Coffee cans in the sky.
Ed: It's a little much. Historically, the way to bet on any technological development on this is to bet against the people who are saying it's going to happen really soon and to put all your chips on about 4 years after that because everyone overestimates the short-term disruption and then they're disappointed by it. But then in the long-term, everything turns out to happen and be much more impressive than anyone said in the first place. So yea, this isn't pie in the sky. It's all going to happen. It's just not going to be on any of the timelines that people are talking about right now.
Devindra: I mean we'll see, too, like what they're proposing with 5G and everything is that it could get us much, much faster speeds across longer distances and things like that, so yea. I don't even know what the point is. If 5G is as good as what they've been building up for so long, this might be kind of redundant at that point. And to what you were saying too, Christina, LTE isn't going anywhere, right? It may get a little faster once 5G networks start getting implemented. But even if you're limited to unlimited, if you're stuck with unlimited LTE speeds, that's fantasic.
Christina: No I agree with you, Devindra. The reality is I actually-- 22 gigabytes is pretty good but at this point I do hope that they will as networks get bigger start to increase those limits. Because more and more people can start to use their phones as their primary ISP because frankly it's faster and in many parts of the country, better than what you might get through cable.
Leo: You know, I'm getting dinged by Comcast because I went over a terabyte in a month. And I imagine I would hit that number with a cell phone too if I were—yea. Soon. Well, I think we should wrap this up. We want to send out thoughts and prayers to the people in Sweden after that horrific attack the other night I read about on the internet. Thank you to—I shouldn't say that (laughing).
Christina: You should make it clear that nothing actually happened.
Leo: Nothing actually happened, ok? I saw it on Fox News. Nothing happened.
Ed: I'm Googling how to say douche bag in Swedish.
Leo: No, just wait. The tweet will happen and you won't have to look it up. Thank you so much, Ed Bott, ZDNet. Plug something. #prayforSweden by the way.
Ed: Windows 10 Inside Out 2nd Edition out there. And we're working on an update to it. So we're going to start doing, we'll do 3 updates, electronic updates over the next year. So we're trying to keep the traditional printed book and e-book relevant in this fast paced world. So Windows 10 Inside Out 2nd Edition, it's a good book.
Leo: By the way, if you want, Facebook does have a Swedish flag overlay that you can put on your Facebook icon to show your support for the troubled people of Sweden. I think I'm going to do that right now. Christina—I think this is a good meme. I want to start this right now. Christina Warren from the fabulous Gizmodo. Anything else you want to plug?
Christina: I already plugged it before but if you like listening to hear me talk, my podcast Rocket on Relay FM. We talk about tech once a week, so that's good. It's a good time. And read my articles.
Leo: With the wonderful Brianna Wu and I'm sorry. Who's the 3rd one? I forgot.
Christina: Simone de Rochefort. She's great.
Leo: Thank you, Christina. It's really great having you.
Christina: Thank you, Leo.
Leo: Devindra Hardawar, always a pleasure. Thank you for joining us. Anything you want to plug, my friend?
Devindra: So many things. Check out Engadget. We have restarted our podcast so that's been a lot of fun trying to figure out a way to kind of speak to the audience a little differently and I still do podcasts about movies and TV at Slashfilm.com. And that's been going great.
Leo: Nice. And we do TWiT here every week if you want to come back. We love having you. 3:00 PM Pacific, that would be 6:00 PM Eastern time on a Sunday afternoon or evening, 2300 UTC. Please join us. If you want you can watch live. Join us in the chatroom at irc.twit.tv. You can also watch on YouTube Live now. YouTube.com/twit YouStream, Twitch, may ways to watch. If you can watch live, on demand audio and video is always available after the fact on our website twit.tv or wherever you get your favorite podcasts, Stitcher, Slacker, Google, everything, iTunes. If you'd like to be in studio with us, hey, we'd love that. We've got a great studio audience here today. Just email email@example.com. We'll put a chair out for you. We've got another week or so for the TWiT survey. If you get a moment, it takes just 2 minutes, go to TWiT.tv/survey. It helps us better understand you. We're not collecting personal information at all. We just want to know in aggregate a little bit more about our audience. It also helps with advertising. They always want to know, is there anybody listening? You let us know. TWiT.tv/survey. I thank you all for being here! We did a good job. We can pat ourselves on the back and go home. Another TWiT is in the can. Goodnight, everybody. And I did actually, in support for Sweden I put the Swedish flag on my Facebook. It's very important. We all ought to do that.