This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi, Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the news from Apple’s Spring product launch event, discussing the latest quarterly earnings results from Netflix and Intel, and chatting about a new Microsoft study on work habit challenges from the pandemic. Note that this will be the last Techpinions podcast that I host as I am transitioning to my own Everything Technology podcast.
Podcast: Nvidia GTC, Microsoft Surface Laptop 4, Samsung Unpacked Preview, Apple Spring Event Preview
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the news from Nvidia’s GTC conference, chatting about the release of Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 and other accessories, and previewing the upcoming product launch events from Samsung and Apple.
Podcast: Microsoft, AMD, Apple and Facebook Earnings, RobinHood Stock Trading
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the quarterly results from Microsoft, AMD, Apple and Facebook, discussing the growing battle between Apple and Facebook, and chatting about the RobinHood stock trading controversies.
Podcast: Intel and IBM Earnings, Nvidia GeForce Now Alliance, Apple VR Headset Rumors
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the Q4 2020 financial results from Intel and IBM, discussing Nvidia’s GeForce Now game streaming service and its potential opportunity and impact as a 5G service, and chatting about the rumors of a potential VR headset from Apple.
Podcast: Verizon-Apple, Apple App Store, AMD RX6800 GPUs, Microsoft Pluton, Apple Diversity
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing Verizon’s recent 5G Swap offer with iPhone 12, Apple’s changing of their App Store fee for developers, reviews of the new M1-based Arm Macs, reviews of AMD’s latest Radeon 6800 GPUs, analyzing the potential impact of the Microsoft’s new Pluton security processor for PCs and its partnerships with AMD, Intel and Qualcomm, and chatting about the new inclusion and diversity officer at Apple.
Podcast: Apple Arm-Based Macs, MediaTek Summit
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the debut of Apple’s Arm-based M1 processor and the new Mac Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro that include them and discussing the news from Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek’s Summit event and the new low-cost 5G modems and Arm-based, Chromebook-focused SOCs that they unveiled.
Podcast: AMD Radeon 6000, Lenovo TechWorld, Tech Earnings, Cisco Partner Summit
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing AMD’s purchase of Xilinx and the debut of their Radeon 6000 GPUs, chatting on news from Lenovo’s TechWorld event, analyzing quarterly earnings from Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and more, and speaking about Cisco’s Partner Summit event.
Podcast: Qualcomm 5G Summit, Apple iPhone 12, DellTechWorld, Citrix Workspace Summit
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the news from Qualcomm’s 5G Summit event, discussing initial real-world 5G performance of the iPhone 12, chatting about Dell Technologies’ new Project Apex “as a service” offering news from their DellTechWorld event, and reviewing the latest news on employee experience from Citrix’ Workspace Summit event.
Podcast: Apple iPhone 12, US 5G Networks, HomePod Mini
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing the news from Apple’s big launch event with a detailed analysis of the latest iPhone’s new features, its 5G support, and its impact and opportunities for US 5G carriers including Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T.
Podcast: Oculus Quest 2 VR Headset, Sony Playstation 5, Apple Event
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing the news from the Facebook-owned Oculus press event on their new VR headset and plans for AR glasses, chatting about the release details of Sony’s forthcoming gaming console, and analyzing the news from Apple’s event, including new Apple Watches, iPads and its Apple One bundle of services.
Podcast: Microsoft Surface Duo, Motorola Razr, Microsoft XBox Series X, Apple Event Preview
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing their experiences with Microsoft’s Surface Duo device, analyzing the launch of the second generation Motorola Razr foldable 5G phone, chatting about the details of the next generation XBox gaming console and previewing Apple’s Event for next week.
Podcast: TikTok, Apple Facebook, HP and Dell Earnings, Fall Product Preview
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell discussing the latest developments and challenges around the potential sale of social media app TikTok, the controversies between Apple and Facebook on activity tracking, the latest quarterly earnings from PC industry leaders HP and Dell, and the potential impact of a range of tech products expected to be released this fall.
Podcast: 5G, Radio Frequency Spectrum and What it All Means
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Mark Lowenstein and Bob O’Donnell explaining many of the details of how 5G works, what radio frequency (RF) spectrum is, why it’s critically important and what the latest developments are, how how all of this impacts telco carriers and device makers, and more.
Podcast: Microsoft Surface Duo, Qualcomm Court Decision, Fortnite Battle with Apple and Google
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the news around Microsoft’s Surface Duo mobile device, discusses the positive legal outcome for Qualcomm’s IP licensing business, and debates the issues around Epic’s Games’ Fortnite-driven battle with Apple and Google’s app store policies.
Podcast: Samsung Unpacked, T-Mobile 5G, Apple App Store, Microsoft-TikTok
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing the announcements from the Samsung Unpacked event, including their new Note 20 and Galaxy Z Fold 2 smartphones as well as their partnership with Microsoft on software and gaming services, chatting about T-Mobile’s launch of the world’s first 5G SA (Standalone) network, controversies around Apple’s App Store policy and cloud-based gaming services like Microsoft’s upcoming xCloud, and analyzing the potential purchase of TikTok by Microsoft.
Podcast: AMD Earnings, Congressional Hearings, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google Earnings
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the quarterly financial results from AMD and what they say about the semiconductor industry overall, discussing the congressional anti-trust hearings with major tech CEOs, and chatting about the earnings from those same companies as well.
Apple Transition Provides Huge Boost for Arm
You have to imagine that yesterday was a pretty good one for the folks at Arm—the little understood, but highly influential chip design company. Not only were they able to report that their designs power the world’s fastest supercomputer, there’s also that little detail about Apple choosing to switch from Intel-based CPUs to Apple designed custom silicon built on Arm’s core architecture for future generations of Macs.
A word on the supercomputer news first. Every year at the opening of the ISC high-performance computing conference, the organization running it releases the Top 500 performing supercomputers. As with most years, this year’s list was utterly dominated by Intel-based machines, but there was a surprise at the top. For the first time ever, Arm-based chips (in this instance, built by Fujitsu) are the CPU brains being used in the number 1 ranked machine—the Fugaku supercomputer, which is operated by the RIKEN Center for Computational Science in Japan. In addition to the prestige, it’s a huge psychological win for Arm, which has been working to make an impact on the enterprise computing world with its Neoverse CPU architecture for the last several years.
In the personal computing world, Arm notched an equally impressive victory with the official unveiling of the long-rumored Arm-powered chips for next generation Macs. Apple doesn’t have the largest market share in the PC market—it’s around 7% or so overall—but its impact, of course, greatly outstrips those numbers. As a result, by making the official announcement of custom Apple Silicon for the Mac, which was designed leveraging Apple’s architectural license of Arm’s chip IP designs (though Arm is never mentioned in the keynote or any of the press releases for the event), Arm scored a huge gain in credibility and awareness.
Of course, awareness doesn’t translate to success, and as exciting as the development may be, there are a great deal of questions, as well as previous history, to suggest that challenges await. First, while Apple talked about switching to this new design to both improve performance and reduce power consumption, it has yet to show any comparative benchmarks to existing Intel-based Macs for either of those metrics. Of course, that’s likely because the silicon isn’t done. Heck, Apple didn’t even announce the name of the new chips. (The A12Z Bionic chip in the developer system, and currently in the iPad Pro, is likely only an interim solution.) My guess is that we won’t get any of these details until the end of the year, when the first-generation Macs with these new chips are unveiled.
Apple’s primary stated reason for making the move away from Intel to custom silicon was to improve the experience, so these comparative details are going to be critically important. This is particularly true because of the generally disappointing performance of Arm-based Qualcomm and Microsoft chips in Windows on Arm PCs like the Surface Pro X. The key question will be if Apple is able to overcome some of the limitations and truly beat Intel-level performance, while simultaneously offering significantly better battery life. It’s an extremely challenging task but one that Apple clearly laid out as its goal.
There are also many unanswered questions about the ability to pair these new chips with external GPUs, such as the AMD Radeon parts Apple currently offers in certain Macs, or any other companion chips, such as 5G modems. While Apple currently uses Qualcomm modems for the iPhone and certain iPads, the company is known to be working on its own modems, and it’s not clear if those will be available in time for the launch of a 5G-equipped Macbook (should they choose to do so). As for graphics, Apple only uses its own GPU designs for its other custom parts for iPhones and iPads, but some computing applications require more graphics horsepower than those devices do, so it will be interesting to see if Apple offers the option to pair its new Mac-specific SOCs with external GPUs.
Finally, of course, there is the question of software. To get the best possible performance on any platform, you need to have software developers write applications that are native to the instruction sets being used. Because that can take a while, you also have to have a means to run existing software (that is, designed for Intel-based Macs) on the new chips via emulation. Ironically, Apple has chosen to use the exact same playbook to transition away from Intel processors that it used to transition into Intel processors. In fact, it’s even using the same names (with the addition of a version 2) for the core technologies: Universal Binaries 2 are combined applications that run on both Intel CPUs and the new Apple custom silicon chips and Rosetta 2 is the software used to emulate Intel instructions. This time around Apple also added some virtualization capabilities and demoed the ability to run Linux in a virtualized container. However, interestingly, there was no discussion of Windows running on the new Mac. Presumably all the work that Microsoft and its partners have done to bring Windows to Arm-based CPUs should port over fairly easily to Apple designs as well, but the details on this are not clear just yet.
To the company’s credit, Apple did an impressive job when it created this playbook to move from PowerPC-based chips to Intel, so here’s hoping the same strategy works the other way around. While Apple made it seem like it was a fairly trivial task to shift from x86-based instructions to Arm, if you use its Xcode development environment, history strongly suggests that the transition can be a bit daunting for some developers. To their credit, however, Apple did show functioning demos of critical Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Apple professional apps running natively in the new environment. One concern Apple didn’t address at all was hardware device drivers. That was a key challenge for early Arm on Windows devices, so it will be interesting to see how Apple does with this.
One nice advantage that Apple and its developers gain by moving over to the same Arm-based architectures that it uses for the iPhone and iPad is that iOS and iPadOS applications should easily run on these new Macs—a point Apple was eager to make. As exciting as that first sounds, however, there is that detail of a lack of a touch screen on any existing Mac. Imagine trying to use a mouse with your iPhone, and you can see how initial enthusiasm for this capability may dampen, unless Apple chooses to finally allow touchscreens on Macs. We shall see.
The last point to make regarding all of these developments is that Apple ultimately chose to move to Arm to gain complete control over the Mac experience. As good as Intel’s processors have been, Apple has shown with its other devices that it likes to own the complete vertical technology stack, and the only way to do that was to design the CPU as well. It’s the last critical piece of the puzzle for Apple’s strategy to control its own destiny.
Regardless of that reasoning, however, it’s clear that both Apple’s decision and the supercomputing win mentioned earlier provide a great deal of credence to Arm’s efforts. At the same time, it arguably puts even more pressure on Arm to continue its pace of innovations. For a company that so few people really appreciate and understand, it’s great to see how far and how wide Arm has pushed the boundaries of computing. Now let’s see how they continue to evolve.
Podcast: Cisco Live, Qualcomm Snapdragon 690, Apple App Store Controversy
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing the many announcements from the Cisco Live event, analyzing the potential impact of low-cost 5G phones from the latest Qualcomm chip, and debating the controversies around Apple’s app store payment model for developers.
Podcast: IBM Think, PC Industry News from HP, Microsoft, AMD, Samsung, Apple, Lenovo
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing the IBM Think conference as well as a number of different PC, OS and chip announcements from major vendors in the PC business and analyzing what it means for the state of the PC category moving forward.
Podcast: Tech Earnings from Facebook, Alphabet/Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing this week’s big tech quarterly earnings reports from Facebook, Google’s parent company Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple, with a focus on what the numbers mean for each of the companies individually and for the tech industry as a whole.
Podcast: Intel Earnings, Magic Leap, WiFi6E, Arm-Based Mac
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Ben Bajarin and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the earnings announcements from Intel and what they say about tech industry evolution, discussing the layoffs and repivoting of Magic Leap and what it says about the future of Augmented Reality, describing the importance of the new WiFi6E 6GHz extensions to WiFi, and chatting about the potential for an Arm processor-based future Mac.
Podcast: Apple Google Contact Tracing, iPhone SE, OnePlus 8, Samsung 10 Lite
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell analyzing the surprising announcement from Apple and Google to work together on creating a smartphone-based system for tracking those who have been exposed to people with COVID-19, and discussing the launch of several new moderately priced smartphones and what they mean to the overall smartphone market.
Apple Google Contact Tracing Effort Raises Fascinating New Questions
In a move that caught many off guard—in part because of its release on the notoriously slow news day of Good Friday—Apple and Google announced an effort to create a standardized means of sharing information about the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Utilizing the Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) technology that’s been built into smartphones for the last 6 or 7 years and some clever mechanisms for anonymizing the data, the companies are working on building a standard API (application programming interface) that can be used to inform people if they’ve come into contact with someone who’s tested positive for the virus.
Initially those efforts will require people to download and enable specialized applications from known health care providers, but eventually the two companies plan to embed this capability directly into their respective mobile phone operating systems: iOS and Android.
Numerous articles have already been written about some of the technical details of how it works, and the companies themselves have put together a relatively simple explanation of the process. Rather than focusing on those details, however, I’ve been thinking more about the second-order impacts from such a move and what they have to say about the state of technology in our lives.
First, it’s amazing to think how far-reaching and impactful an effort like this could prove to be. While it may be somewhat obvious on one hand, it’s also easy to forget how widespread and common these technologies have become. In an era when it’s often difficult to get coordinated efforts within a single country (or even state), with one decisive step, these two tech industry titans are working to put together a potential solution that could work for most of the world. (Roughly half the world’s population owns a smartphone that runs one of these OS’s and a large percentage of people who don’t have one likely live with others who do. That’s incredible.)
With a few notable exceptions, tech industry developments essentially ignore country boundaries and have become global in nature right before our eyes. At times like this, that’s a profoundly powerful position to be in—and a strong reason to hope that, despite potential difficulties, the effort is a success. Of course, because of that reach and power, it also wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see some governments raise concerns about these advancements as they are further developed and as the potential extent of their influence becomes more apparent. Ultimately, however, while there has been discussion in the past of the potential good that technology can bring to the world, this combined effort could prove to be an actual life and death example of that good.
Unfortunately, some of the concerns regarding security, privacy, and control that have been raised about this new effort also highlight one of the starkest examples of what the potential misuse of widespread technology could do. And this is where some of the biggest questions about this project are centered. Even people who understand that the best of intentions are at play also know that concerns about data manipulation, creating false hopes (or fears), and much more are certainly valid when you start talking about putting so many people’s lives and personal health data under this level of technical control and scrutiny.
While there are no easy answers to these types of questions, one positive outcome that I certainly hope to see as a result of this effort is enhanced scrutiny of any kind of personal tracking technologies, particularly those focused on location tracking. Many of these location-based or application-driven efforts to harvest data on what we’re doing, what we’re reading, where we’re going, and so on—most all of which are done for the absurdly unimportant task of “personalizing” advertisements—have already gotten way out of hand. In fact, it felt like many of these technologies were just starting to see some real push back as the pandemic hit.
Let’s hope that as more people get smarter about the type of tracking efforts that really do matter and can potentially impact people’s lives in a positive way, we’ll see much more scrutiny of these other unimportant tracking efforts. In fact, with any luck there will be much more concentrated efforts to roll back or, even better, completely ban these hidden, little understood and yet incredibly invasive technologies and the mountains of data they create. As it is, they have existed for far too long. The more light that can be shone into these darker sides of technology abuse, the more outrage it will undoubtedly cause, which should ultimately force change.
Finally, on a very different note, I am quite curious to see how this combined Apple Google effort could end up impacting the overall view of Google. While Apple is generally seen to be a trustworthy company, many people still harbor concerns around trusting Google because of some of the data collection policies (as well as ad targeting efforts) that the company has utilized in the past. If Google handles these efforts well—and uses the opportunity to become more forthright about its other data handling endeavors—I believe they could gain a great deal of trust back from many consumers. They’ve certainly started making efforts in that regard, so I hope they can use this experience to do even more.
Of course, if the overall efficacy of this joint effort doesn’t prove to be as useful or beneficial as the theory of it certainly sounds—and numerous concerns are already being raised—none of these second-order impacts will matter much. I am hopeful, however, that progress can be made, not only for the ongoing process of managing people’s health and information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, but for how technology can be smartly leveraged in powerful and far-reaching ways.
Apple Coronavirus Warnings Highlight Complexities of Tech Supply Chains
As the impact of the coronavirus spreads, Apple issued a rare statement yesterday related to the coronavirus’ impact on its quarterly earnings guidance and that announcement is now reverberating throughout the tech industry as well. The company reported that its current quarter’s earnings will likely be negatively affected by several factors related to the virus, specifically its effect on the Chinese market and its global supply chain.
What makes the news even more disconcerting is that the company had already suggested on its last earnings call just a few weeks back that revenues for the quarter could fall into a much wider range of potential outcomes than they typically provide because of the uncertainties the virus was creating. A second negative statement just a few weeks later highlights that the impact of the virus is proving to be much worse than originally thought. The fact that they didn’t say how much the earnings guidance decline would be also emphasizes the uncertainty about the total extent of the virus’ impact.
Specifically, Apple said that sales of iPhones in China—an increasingly important market for the company—will be lower than it had predicted because many of its retail stores and other retail partners’ stores have been closed as a result of the virus. In addition, as stores reopen, the traffic in them has been significantly lighter than normal, leading to the slowdown in sales. Theoretically, online sales shouldn’t be impacted as strongly, but it’s not hard to imagine that the delivery mechanisms in China have also been slowed by the virus.
The second factor Apple cited—a slower ramp to full production after Chinese New Year—is potentially more troublesome, because it impacts the company’s entire global supply of iPhones and other devices. In addition, it certainly implies that other major tech hardware vendors could start feeling this soon as well.
As most people know, the vast majority of Apple’s devices are built in Chinese factories, so the company—like most every other hardware tech vendor—is currently very reliant on these Chinese factories cranking out products in huge quantities on a steady basis. And that’s really the problem, because if Apple is starting to notice the impact strongly enough that it felt the need to issue a statement on revised guidance, then we’re likely going to see a lot of other hardware-focused tech vendors do something similar over the next few days or weeks. In fact, even before Apple, Nintendo had disclosed that it won’t be able to build as many of its Switch gaming consoles as it would like, because its primary production partner Foxconn—who also happens to be Apple’s largest factory partner—was facing delays at its Chinese factories.
The other thing to bear in mind is that even companies that don’t have factories in the most affected areas of China can see their production slowed because of their dependence on certain parts or other components that do come from the most impacted regions. These days, the number of subcomponents that go into more sophisticated tech devices can easily reach over 100, and because so many of these subcomponents are built in China, the range of impact from the virus is potentially much wider than it first appears.
By the way, the timing here is also very important. One thing that many people don’t understand is that, as terrible as it is, the coronavirus started seriously impacting Chinese factories just before the one week in the year when they’re scheduled to be offline: Chinese New Year. If the virus had hit at another time of year, the impact could have been much worse. Now companies are trying to determine how many workers are returning to the factories after their scheduled break, and it’s those metrics that are going to be the most closely watched over the next few weeks.
In addition, out of an abundance of caution, I’ve also heard some hardware vendors say that the Chinese government is imposing mandatory factory shutdowns of 30 days if a single worker is discovered to be infected. Needless to say, that’s going to force companies to be very conservative about letting employees come back to work, which could also result in serious delays in production.
Ultimately, however, it’s essential to remember that this issue is an extremely challenging humanitarian crisis and that companies need to be (and, likely will be) sensitive to the issue and do whatever they can to keep their workers safe. Taking the big picture view, these production delays will likely (and hopefully) be little more than a blip on the long-term radar of tech industry production. Unfortunately, because many institutional investors are more concerned with short-term financial performance, this may cause some short-term challenges for those companies who are being impacted. Long-term, let’s hope the tech industry can learn from this crisis and figure out ways to both protect the workers who help bring products to life and to create supply chains that can withstand the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.
Podcast: Smart Home Consortium, Facebook OS, 2019 Tech Trends
This week’s Techpinions podcast features Carolina Milanesi and Bob O’Donnell discussing the recently announced Project Connected Home over IP consortium, chatting about a potential Facebook OS, and analyzing some of the top tech trends of the past year.