Welcome to the Post-Email Enterprise: what Skype Teams means in a Slack-Leaning World

Work technology vendors very commonly — for decades — have suggested that their shiny brand-new tools will deliver us from the tyranny of email. Today, we hear it from all sorts of tool vendors:

  • work management tools, like Asana, Wrike, and Trello, built on the bones of task manager with a layer of social communications grafted on top
  • work media tools, like Yammer, Jive, and the as-yet-unreleased Facebook for Work, build on social networking model, to move communications out of email, they say
  • and most prominently, the newest wave of upstarts, the work chat cadre have arrived, led by Atlassian’s Hipchat, but most prominently by the mega-unicorn Slack, a company which has such a strong gravitational field that it seems to have sucked the entire work technology ecosystem into the black hole around its disarmingly simple model of chat rooms and flexible integration.

Has the millennium finally come? Will this newest paradigm for workgroup communications unseat email, the apparently undisruptable but deeply unlovable technology at the foundation of much enterprise and consumer communication?
Well, a new announcement hit my radar screen today, and I think that we may be at a turning point. In the words of Winston Churchill, in November 1942 after the Second Battle of El Alamein, when it seemed clear that the WWII allies would push Germany from North Africa,

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

And what is this news that suggests to me we may be on the downslope in the century-long reign of email?
Microsoft is apparently working on a response to Slack, six months after the widely reported termination of discussions of acquisition. There has been a great deal of speculation about Microsoft’s efforts in this area, especially considering the now-almost-forgotten acquisition of Yammer (see Why Yammer Deal Makes Sense, and it did make sense in 2012). However, after that acquisition, Microsoft — and especially Bill Gates, apparently — believed they would be better off building Slackish capabilities into an existing Microsoft brand. But, since Yammer is an unloved product inside of the company, now, the plan was to build these capabilities into something that the company has doubled down on. So now we see Slack Teams, coming soon.
Microsoft may be criticized for maybe attempting to squish too much into the Skype wrapper with Skype Teams, but we’ll have to see how it all works together. It is clear that integrated video conferencing is a key element of where work chat is headed, so Microsoft would have had to come up with that anyway. And Skype certainly has the rest of what is needed for an enterprise work chat platform, and hundreds of millions of email users currently on Exchange and Office 365.
The rest of the details will have to wait for actual hands on inspection (so far, I have had only a few confidential discussions with Microsofties), but an orderly plan for migration away from email-centric work technologies to a work chat-centric model coming from Microsoft means it’s now mainstream, not a bunch of bi-coastal technoids. This will be rolled out everywhere.
So, we are moving into a new territory, a time where work chat tools will become the super dominant workgroup communications platform of the next few decades. This means that the barriers to widespread adoption will have to be resolved, most notably, work chat interoperability.
Most folks don’t know the history of email well enough to recall that at one time email products did not interconnect: my company email could not send an email to your company email. However, the rise of the internet and creation of international email protocols led to a rapid transition, so that we could stop using Compuserve and AOL to communicate outside the company.
It was that interoperability that led to email’s dominance in work communications, and similarly, it will take interoperability of work chat to displace it.
In this way, in the not-too-distant future, my company could be using Slack while yours might be using Skype Teams. I could invite you and your team to coordinate work in a chat channel I’ve set up, and you would be able to interact with me and mine.
If the world of work technology is to avoid a collapse into a all-encompassing monopoly with Slack at the center of it, we have to imagine interoperability will emerge relatively quickly. Today’s crude integrations — where Zapier or IFTTT copy new posts in Hipchat to a corresponding channel in Slack — will quickly be replaced by protocols that all competitive solutions will offer. And Skype is that irritant that will motivate all these giants to make a small peace around interoperability, in order to be able to play nice with Slack.
We’ll have to see the specifics of Skype Teams, and where Facebook at Work is headed. Likewise, all internet giants — including Apple, Google, and Amazon — seem to be quietly consolidating their market advantages in file sync-and-share, cloud computing, social networks, and mobile devices. Will we see a Twitter for Work, for example, after a Google acquisition? Surely Google Inbox and Google+ aren’t the last work technologies that Alphabet intends for us? How might Slack fit into Amazon’s designs? That might surprise a lot of people.
But no matter the specifics, we are certainly on the downslopes of the supremacy of email. We may have to wait an additional 50 years for its last gasping breath, but we’re now clearly in the chat (and work chat) era of human communications, and there’s no turning back.

Apple services are growing, hardware slowing

Apple posted quarterly results, and received a standing ovation: the stock rose 7% at the opening this morning.
What’s intriguing is that the numbers show lower sales of iPhone (down 15% compared to last year), Mac (down 10.5%), and iPad (down 8.3%). But Apple has pulled off some hand jive, and drawn attention to what may be the future of its growth engine: services.
In the release, Luca Maestri — Apple’s CFO — wrote ‘our Services business grew 19 percent year-over-year and App Store revenue was the highest ever, as our installed base continued to grow and transacting customers hit an all-time record’.
As I mentioned earlier this week (see What’s going on in Phoneland?), the market had already priced in the negatives coming in Apple’s quarterly results. As others — like Chris O’Brien — have pointed out, Apple has done a great job managing the expectations of Wall Street, and drawing the analysts’ attention to the figures Apple wants us to pay attention to. And the trend in services, and the growing margins in iPad sales, are the figures that are causing the stock to soar.
Tim Cook stated that the services side at Apple is on track to be ‘the size of a Fortune 100 company next year’.
So, once again the maturation theme is front and center: Apple’s sales of new hardware is dropping, but with a huge installed base, what can Apple do to make money? Sell — or more aptly, rent — services to all those folks with iPhone, iPads, and Macs. (Oh, and Watches, but that’s too tiny to matter, and might never.) So if Apple can continue to grow services to the installed base — plus get some additional boost in iPhone sales in the fall when new models come out — the company will remain a Wall Street darling.
Relative to enterprise sales, the better margins in iPads has got to be a proxy for increased sales in the enterprise based on the new larger iPad Pro. But, at present, Apple doesn’t have much of a story for enterprise services. Maybe it’s time to the company to revisit the plan to buy Dropbox or Box, and replace/rework iCloud (iCloud Pro?) with a cloud file sync-and-share solution –including a deep integration with Apple’s productivity suite — that makes more sense for the enterprise?
 

What’s going on in Phoneland?

Connecting the dots on some news stories from Phoneland.
First, the CEO of Ericsson has been sacked:

Kim McLaughlin, Ericsson Ousts Vestberg as CEO After Turnaround Plans Stall
Vestberg’s departure caps a turbulent period for Ericsson, which is cutting jobs while battling fierce competition from from Huawei Technologies Co. and Nokia Oyj. The company said last week it would accelerate cost cuts after reporting four straight quarters disappointing revenue and profit. Vestberg has faced questions on probes into alleged corruption in Asia and Europe, and last week the company rejected a report in Swedish media that it may be inflating sales by booking revenue before some clients are invoiced.

As usual, that’s the proximate cause, but the deep structure is that 4G tech has been rolled out worldwide already, and no one’s buying much these days.

With much of the so-called fourth-generation networks already built in the U.S. and China, Vestberg had vowed to improve profitability, but the stock has declined since reaching a more than seven-year high in April last year.
Vestberg had carved out new business units targeting media and enterprise customers to get back to growth, while investing in a next generation of so-called 5G wireless technology, which represents the next wave of spending at Ericsson’s telecom carrier customers. However, he refrained from big, dramatic moves like Nokia’s purchase of Alcatel-Lucent SA, opting instead for a partnership with Cisco Systems Inc. for Internet products like routers.

So, he’s out for thinking small bore, and we’re seeing the hiccups from the 4G/5G transition in Phoneland.
Second story: Steven Russolillo says that Apple is ripe for a Rally, despite the fact that market watchers are negative on the giant:

Much of the bearish thesis is due to weakening iPhone sales, which account for more than half of revenue. The iPad isn’t selling as well as it used to and the jury is out on the Apple Watch. Tech investors are allergic to anemic growth, which explains why the tech-heavy Nasdaq has lagged behind the Dow industrials and S&P 500.
Still, Apple has been punished more than enough. The iPhone slump appears priced in. And while the next iPhone, expected later this year, likely won’t be a significant upgrade, there is optimism that sales growth will soon bounce back. Analysts forecast iPhone unit sales will rise 5% for fiscal 2017, which ends next September.

The real question is not about stock price (or profits, either, with $10.52 billion in the March quarter), but about consumer buying behavior. Will we have to wait for a new mobile device — like AR/VR goggles? — before there is another huge surge in consumer demand for mobile? Watches aren’t the future, but goggles will be, I bet. Not a 2016 trend, though. Maybe 2017?
The third and last data point for today: Aaron Pressman digs into AT&T’s efforts to convince Wall Street its wireless business is healthy. His argument reviews the standard argument that postpaid subscribers — the ones signed up for monthly accounts — are generally considered to be better sources of reliable revenue than prepaid subscribers, who generally ‘spend less for service, buy cheaper phones, and tend to defect to other carriers more frequently’.

The bottom line is that so far this year, AT&T’s postpaid subscribers grew only 1% while prepaid subscriptions increased 21%. That’s disturbing to Wall Street, based on the ruling assumption that postpaid customers are preferable.
Thus, Stephens has been trying to push some new math on the analysts. In essence, his argument is that the best customers in prepaid are actually a lot better—and more profitable—than the worst customers in postpaid.
The average service revenue AT&T collected from postpaid customers who have left—and who mostly had not upgraded to smartphones yet—was only $35, he said during a conference call with analysts on Thursday afternoon. But the new prepaid customers signing up with Cricket are bringing in “closer to a $41, $42” of average revenue. Additionally, it costs less to acquire a new prepaid customer and less to provide them with customer service, he noted.
“So from that standpoint, the economics are better, and it is being shown in our margins,” Stephens told analysts, pointing out that while total wireless revenue was down slightly, profit margins were at record highs.

So AT&T has landed in a different dimension, where the economics are reversed, with T-Mobile and others screwing up the numbers for postpaid, while the supposedly poor prepaid sector looks good. However, this may be only true for a short transient period.
And the back office transitions around cable and internet, suggest other churn as the world is turning:

The telco is shedding expensive-to-maintain cable TV customers at its U-Verse unit while adding less costly satellite TV customers for DirecTV. AT&T is dropping broadband Internet customers who connect via older DSL lines while trying to add fiber optic broadband customers. And it’s trying to move corporate customers from traditional managed networks to cheaper virtualized networks. If all of the transitions succeed, both revenue and profits should grow.

Putting all the dots together? The consolidation in Phoneland is accelerating. Old technology is maturing, while new technologies and business models are only slowly emerging, which is leading to the downdraft at Ericsson, and financial analyst disdain for Apple and AT&T. The slowing rate of purchasing — by telcos and consumers, both — is leading to consolidation, the classic market maturation that comes right before a new era of breakthroughs and growth. But those breakthroughs won’t be in 2016.

Mobile Security: putting the consumerisation genie back in the bottle

Since the arrival of the first consumer-bought smartphones, enterprise security has been under threat. That all-important chain of defense against security risks has been undermined by its weakest link, people, in this case by using non-standard devices to conduct business and therefore making corporate data vulnerable to attack.
The alternative, to roll out company-issued mobile devices, has not been an easy path to follow. When historical market leader Blackberry lost its leading position in the market to Apple and Google’s Android, companies also lost a significant part of the ability to control corporate messaging and applications from a central point.
From the perspective of the IT shop, the consequence has been fragmentation, which has undermined the ability to deliver a coherent response in security terms. While solutions such as Mobile Device Management have existed, they have been seen as onerous; also, some devices (in particular those based on Android) have been seen as less secure.
Looking more broadly, many organisations have ended up adopting an approach in which corporate devices are used alongside personal equipment for business use. The genie of consumerisation is out of the bottle, say the pundits. But now devices exist that can deliver on an organisation’s mobile security needs, the question is, can it be put back?
The answer lies in addressing the source of the challenge, which is not the device but the person using it. Human beings assess risk all the time, and indeed, we are very good at it. In the case of a mobile device for example, we are prepared to put up with a small amount of discomfort if it will get us the result we want: sending a message, say.
If the discomfort is too great, we will assess other risks, such as, “What happens if I get caught using my personal phone?” If the answer is nothing, then the chances are that the behavior will continue. With this in mind, anyone deploying a mobile solution needs to consider two variables: the discomfort it causes, and the cost of avoiding the discomfort.
Considering the discomfort first, the point of any mobile solution is to enable productivity. Different security features — such as encrypted data storage, separation of apps and so on — may be applicable to different business scenarios.
Defining a solution appropriate for an organisation or group requires familiarity with the security features available on a device and the risks they mitigate. Better knowledge makes for more flexibility, reduced operational overhead and therefore increased probability of a successful deployment.
An equal partner to product knowledge should be an understanding of the organisation concerned, the data assets to be protected and what constitutes their acceptable use. If a policy is in place, this may need to be reviewed: note that it needs to be signed off at the top of the organisation to be effective.
Once a standard configuration has been defined, it will require testing. Too often, enterprise mobile security can fail “for want of a nail” — insufficient licenses on the RADIUS server for example, or lack of WiFi cover in areas where authentication takes place. Users need a solution that works from day one, or they will immediately lose confidence in it.
Putting all these measures in place can help minimize discomfort, but the need to go hand in hand with measures to ensure that the capabilities cannot be circumvented. Note that we are talking about the organisation’s most important asset — it’s people — who will respond far better to inclusionary tactics than draconian tactics.
At the same time as understanding why secure mobile working technologies are being deployed however, employees need to know that they need to act as a strong link in the chain, not a weak one. An Acceptable Use Policy should be enforceable, in that a staffer at any level’s card will be marked if they attempt to circumvent it.
In addition, the genie should be given a clear timescale for getting back in the bottle. For example, in an ‘anything goes’ environment which mixes personal and corporate mobile equipment, individuals should be given a cut-off date following which corporate data access will only be possible via a secure device.
A final question is about sustainability, that is, how to keep it all going? Reporting is important, with deprovisioning perhaps the most critical — it is one thing to know that resources have been allocated to the right people, but even more so is to know that any rights — and indeed devices — have been returned on change of role or exit from the company.
The bottom line, and the most fundamental challenge, is that any shiny new corporate devices deliver on what they are supposed to do — in this case enabling mobile users to stay productive without compromising on corporate risk. Provide people with usable security they will not try to circumvent, and you avoid consigning devices to the desk drawer.
If you’re interested in improving your business’s mobile security operations, join us for our upcoming webinar: Evolving Enterprise Security for the Mobile-First World. This webinar is presented by GigaOm’s Jon Collins, with sponsorship by Samsung. Register now for the webinar taking place on Wednesday, March 9 from 1 to 2pm EST.

Exploring Apple’s growing interest in VR content

While it’s no surprise that the presence of virtual reality is weaving its way into many sectors of tech, we’re still left waiting to find out how it’ll unfold when it comes to Apple.

Google, Samsung, Sony, and Facebook have all shared their VR plans, but Apple is remaining silent. Well, mostly silent anyway. Yesterday, Apple confirmed to TechCrunch that it had purchased Swiss startup Faceshift, which develops motion-capture technology. Prior to the acquisition, Faceshift focused on producing motion-capture solutions primarily for gaming and film applications. Most notably, the startup has done work for little film called Star Wars.

Faceshift’s tech integrated with cameras capable of capturing and deciphering depth in a space, then used the visual information picked up by the camera to influence the appearances, actions and facial expressions of digital objects like avatars and animated characters.

So, what does Apple want with Faceshift? In typical Apple fashion, it gave a stock non-answer when asked about how it plans to use Faceshift. That leaves us to speculate on how, exactly, Apple plans to leverage the work of the company that helped bring Star Wars characters to life. First, though, let’s talk a little bit about what Faceshift was doing prior to being snatched up by Apple.

Faceshift’s most recognizable and noteworthy work is obviously with Star Wars, but its tech has a number of applications that go beyond visual effects in film. One such application was in avatars.

Though avatars are frequently used in gaming, the recent uptick in interest in virtual reality and augmented reality applications has seen many content companies from game studios to film studios rethinking the way in which we see ourselves represented digitally. No longer are avatars simply a cartoonish representation of our online selves on Xboxes and Playstations — they’ve shown the potential to become key components in the way we perceive ourselves in a digital world.

Faceshift has also dipped its toes into augmented reality, using its tech in conjunction with mirrors. In one instance, FaceShift teamed up with AMVBBDO and Pepsi for an AR-based halloween prank that transformed people’s faces into horrifying It-like clown masks. On the less terror-inducing end of the spectrum, possibilities for Faceshift’s mirror tech included the ability to change or modify one’s appearance digitally in a retail setting. Say, for example, trying on a prospective pair of glasses not available in shop or experimenting with a new kind of makeup.

Taking into consideration some of Apple’s other recent acquisitions like Metaio, some degree of AR-application doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. At its core, augmented reality is about allowing users to interact with digital components in space. Virtual reality, by way of comparison, is an immersive experience — one that replaces your current reality with one that lives inside of a headset rather than adding components to your current perceived reality. It’s worth noting, however, that not all applications of AR look like mirror-based pranks, or even Microsoft’s Hololens.

What an Apple foray into AR would look like is difficult to guess. Microsoft has been implementing AR through Hololens for gaming and design purposes, but much of that comes down to the headset. Though certainly not impossible, there isn’t much to indicate right now that Apple’s planning on producing its own headset hardware.

But the reason behind acquiring Faceshift (or even Metaio) might not be augmented reality-related at all. Maybe it’s got more to do with improving features in existing Apple technology, or something security-related, like using facial recognition and mapping to improve device and information security. Or maybe — highly unlikely, but maybe — Apple intends to create its own space opera films.

For now, it’s anyone’s guess how Faceshift might factor into Apple’s plans for the future. But it almost certainly didn’t acquire Faceshift without some seriously sophisticated plans for motion capture and facial mapping technology. And, like always, we’ll be waiting for Apple to read us in.

Exploring what an Apple medical gadget might entail

Apple isn’t interested in transforming the Apple Watch into the ultimate health monitoring device, but the company is open to creating an entirely different product that would.

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, chief exec Tim Cook hinted at future involvement from Apple in health, but cited federal regulation processes as a reason it wouldn’t do so via its smartwatch. He did, however, talk about the possibility of an adjacent product (a gadget or app) that could have a serious impact on the health care industry — because, of course, Apple’s involvement tends to result in a pretty serious impact on every industry it touches.

While he gave few specifics, there are a few key factors surround FDA approval and technology in the health care sector that might help suss out what Apple has in mind. I caught up with Venkat Rajan, a health care analyst with market research firm Frost & Sullivan to clarify a few things about health care tech, FDA testing and Apple’s place in the medical arena.

“To be clear in terms of definition,” says Rajan, “the FDA doesn’t dictate how a doctor can use a device as much as it dictates how you market what the device says it does.”

He gives the example of hearing aids versus sound amplifiers — two devices that do essentially the same thing and function in much the same way, but are marketed differently. Hearing aids are positioned as a treatment for hearing impairment and, as such, typically come from audiologists.

Sound amplifiers, by way of contrast, aren’t marketed as treatment devices. Because of this distinction, this class of device isn’t subjected to the scrutiny and regulation of the FDA and, as a result the product reaches the market and the consumers much more quickly.

So where does that leave Apple? Cook made it clear that they’re not going to chase down FDA approval for Apple Watch, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the company will leave a potentially lucrative market untapped — nothing would be more unlike Apple.

“The real opportunities for Apple are something adjacent to the Watch and that probably means some type of peripheral, wearable-type technology,” Rajan says. “There are a lot of different potential wearables out there that are being explore and so it remains to be seen if Apple has a specific type of patient or disease profile in mind.”

There are already FDA-approved apps and peripherals that are available for use with Apple Watch, though the watch itself is not FDA-approved. Apple Watch’s current role in the health and medical arena is as a conduit for health-related data and communications for those who work in health care. Its role isn’t particularly different from that of a smartphone or tablet though it is, perhaps, much more portable.

While its health data collection and activity tracking work well for personal use, the lack of FDA-approval means that the data from Apple Watch isn’t particularly useful for doctors looking to treat patients and track their progress, which is a key element of wearable technology in the medical space. The future of powerful medical technology for consumers will likely revolve around the degree to which doctors and patients can trust the data gathered by their devices.

“A lot of these devices do a good job of tracking information,” Rajan says. “But I think it is taking a lot of the types of information — whether it’s heart rate or activity or blood sugar sensing — and taking it a level deeper, [such as] being able to collect medical-grade data that an insurance company, hospital, or physician could take a look at and make decisions around.”

Amazon’s disingenuous plan to remove Fire TV’s competition grows

Earlier this month, reports indicated that Amazon planned to stop selling the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast products through its online marketplace. While the devices are still available right now, they’re scheduled to be pulled at some point today, according to Bloomberg’s initial report on Amazon’s plans.
So why is Amazon doing this? Well, the company would have you believe that it’s trying to prevent consumer confusion, because neither of those competitive devices support its Prime Video service as well as its own Fire TV set-top boxes. But several reports published over the last few days offer an alternative theory.
First came a GeekWire report about Amazon’s apparent plans to introduce a QVC-like channel to the Fire TV. This shopping network would complement a new feature the company is reportedly testing with a small number of users: The ability to purchase items shown on-screen directly via the Fire TV remote.
The report says that Amazon wants to sell items via banner ads shown on the main Fire TV interface, and through the X-Ray feature, which uses Amazon’s IMDb service to share information about whatever a person is watching. (It can identify actors, for example, or share background info about a scene.)
These shopping features wouldn’t be as easy to implement on competitive products. Nor would Amazon make as much money from them — Apple takes a 30 percent cut from all transactions made through its platforms, which is why Kindle users can’t purchase new books via the company’s iOS applications.
That’s a compelling enough reason not to believe Amazon’s claim on its own. Saying it was trying to help its Prime customers was likely disingenuous; it seems more like Amazon is trying to do its best to promote a potential revenue scheme than like it was trying to make sure its most loyal customers are happy.
Then came the revelation, courtesy of BuzzFeed’s review of the new Apple TV, that Amazon could very well introduce its Prime Video service to the platform. Here’s what the review said, captured in a handy-dandy little “screenshort”:


I’ve reached out to Amazon for comment on this claim. Right now it seems damning. If the company can introduce Prime Video to the Apple TV, wouldn’t the customers it’s trying to save from befuddlement be better served if it did that, instead of pulling from its website a device they might want to purchase?
None of this will really stop people from buying a new Apple TV. Like I wrote when Amazon’s plan was revealed: The company isn’t hurting anyone but itself, given the ease with which someone can point their Web browser to Apple’s website instead of refusing to buy something not on Amazon’s market. It’s very possible that Amazon is trying (likely in vain) to retain some of the market share for streaming boxes it swallowed up due to years of Apple neglecting to update the Apple TV.
I’ll update this post if Amazon responds to my request for comment. Not that I’m holding my breath — when the company isn’t sending me press releases about new products or making sure I see Medium posts, it’s fairly tight lipped. Given the apparent duplicity at work here, I don’t expect any comment from it.

Apple News censorship reminds us how fleeting digital content is

Apple is reportedly preventing the use of its Apple News service in mainland China — lending more credence to the idea that giving the company too much control over how news publishers reach their audience could have terrible consequences.
Pay4Bugs chief executive Larry Salibra said in a blog post that Apple News refused to fetch new articles, or show items that had already been downloaded to his device, when he took a trip from Hong Kong to mainland China last week. The issue seems to occur when someone uses a Chinese wireless network, which suggests that Apple is (or was) censoring portions of the service to appease the Chinese government.
Salibra showed that the censorship occurs regardless of whether someone allows Apple to collect information about their location, and isn’t tied to the device’s IP address. (Apple didn’t respond to Gigaom’s request for comment.) It happens as soon as the device connects to a Chinese wireless carrier, so unless someone is using their phone in airplane mode, there’s no good way to avoid the censorship.
This might not seem like a big deal; Apple News hasn’t officially debuted anywhere outside the United States, and the Chinese government’s efforts to control the information that enters mainland China aren’t exactly secret. But Apple’s ability to stop someone from reading an article already on their device, as Salibra notes, raises some serious questions about relying on Apple News. (The company has since disabled the entire Apple News service for anyone attempting to use it in China.)
“[Apple is] censoring news content that I downloaded and stored on my device purchased in the USA, before I even enter China just because my phone happens to connect to a Chinese signal floating over the border,” Salibra said in a Reddit post. He added that this is “much different than having your server blocked by the Great Firewall or not enabling a feature for customers” in certain countries.
People tend to get upset when something is taken from their devices, whether it’s Apple News censoring a free service or Amazon pulling “1984” from Kindles. These actions serve as reminders that regardless of what we think about digital media, be it an online article or an e-book, we don’t really “own” anything. It can all be taken away at a moment’s notice — and there’s nothing we can do about it.
When companies demonstrate their willingness to pull those digital products, either because they’re afraid of losing access to their second-most valuable market or because the item shouldn’t have been listed in its marketplace to begin with, those fears rise to the forefront. Apple just reminded the world how fleeting digital content can be, especially when it’s distributed via third parties.
Given Apple’s fight to show that the future of media is digital — sorry, I mean is apps”– that probably isn’t the lesson it ought to be teaching right now. Although, it should be concerning to see how far Apple may be willing to go to appease the government in one of its most lucrative markets.

Amazon will stop selling Apple TVs and Chromecasts. So what?

Although it seems pretty cut and dry, there are folks in tech media that feel Amazon shouldn’t actually stay competitive, as businesses tend to do to survive.
Case in point: Amazon doesn’t like that neither the Apple TV nor Google’s Chromecast provide easy access to its Prime Video service, so it’s taking steps over the next month to stop businesses from selling the products through its website.
“Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime,” Amazon said in an email to employees. “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.”
This means that products which play nice with Amazon’s streaming video service — like most game consoles, Roku’s set-top boxes, and the company’s own FireTV — will remain available on Amazon. Apple and Google are the only ones being booted.
It’s hard to be too upset about this. Could this frustrate Apple and Google? Maybe. Will it be annoying for Amazon Prime customers who expect to be able to purchase anything through the company’s marketplace? A little, I guess. But that’s about it.
But let’s not pretend this is going to hurt Apple or Google that much. Apple has the highest sales per square foot of any retail store in the United States, and it can easily promote its products by emailing the hundreds of millions of people who gave the company their email addresses so they could download stuff from the App Store.
As for Google? Well, running the world’s most popular search engine has its perks. It can also put ads for the Chromecast on YouTube, in Gmail, and basically anywhere else it desires through its advertising platforms. Sure, it won’t offer free two-day shipping, but I doubt most people are in a rush to purchase a new dongle.
Could this be the start of a worrisome trend? Maybe. I guess it would be a problem if Amazon stopped selling e-readers that don’t support the Kindle Store, given that it’s all-but-synonymous with the product category. But those competitive devices are still listed on the company’s site, and that seems unlikely to change any time soon.
At this point, the only entity harmed by this action will be Amazon. It’ll frustrate people who want to make it their one-stop-shop for all things commercial, and it makes the company seem like a petulant child stomping its feet because the other, more popular kids don’t want to play with it. Does that seem like a stable company?
This move reeks of desperation. Amazon might be the biggest online retailer in the United States, but it’s not the only place where people can buy these products. It would’ve been better off allowing them to be listed on its site, if only to keep up its appearances, than to plan the products’ downfall to serve its own selfish purposes.
But we’re only discussing this because of the companies involved. Remove the brands and this becomes a lot less interesting. A retailer pulled some items from its virtual shelves. There are other stores, and luckily for anyone with a decent Internet connection, it only takes a few seconds to visit them and buy those items.
Yawn.