Apple Announce Beats Music & Beats Electronics Acquisition for US$3.0 Billion

Tim Cook:

Please join me in welcoming Beats to Apple. I hope you are as excited as I am about this new chapter in our history.

I want to be, but I’m not.

I’ve been looking for a pair of headphones for quite some time. I’ve been to several stores, tried some, but never thought much of Beats headphones. I’ve read a lot of reviews, too. I have a large head with sensitive (physical and audial) ears so I prefer soft cans that cover my ears and sounds that are balanced and accurate. I like there to be clean separation among high, mid, and low frequencies. I enjoy many genres (R&B, pop, rock, classical, jazz, alternative, K-POP, etc.) so I’d like a pair of headphones that can handle the variety.

“Style over substance,” is what a lot of reviewers conclude about Beats headphones. I’d have to agree. So that’s why I’m not excited about the Beats Electronics acquisition.

I’m scratching my head as to why Apple put such a high value on Beats Music, with 250,000 paying subscribers. iTunes Radio has 40 million users. Tim Cook thinks it’s great:

We love the subscription service that they built — we think it’s the first subscription service that really got it right.

I’m not so sure I can trust Tim Cook to know the difference. I know I wouldn’t know the difference since I’ve only done two things when it comes to music: download songs from iTunes and stream songs from iTunes Radio. Oh, and I’ve ripped my CDs and subscribed to iTunes Match, too. Would I pay for a music subscription services on top or in lieu of how I’m listening to music now? I don’t think so. (I’ve tried Pandora but hate the ads. I’ve also tried Spotify, but it’s not much better than iTunes Radio to depend on two streaming services. I like to keep things simple.)

I think $3 billion is a lot of money for these two companies, but I wish you luck Apple.

LG G3: Laser Autofocus System

Vlad Savov, The Verge:

The moment you enter the camera app, the G3 starts emitting a cone-shaped laser beam from a window just to the side of the camera. The phone then measures how long it takes for the light to bounce back to it and thus gets a reading of how far away the subject of the photo is.

Time to autofocus? 276 milliseconds. Touch where you want to focus and the G3 will focus and take the shot too. The Samsung Galaxy S5 uses a hybrid contrast & phase detection autofocus system and takes 0.3 seconds (300 milliseconds) to focus. LG’s camera UI is minimal as can be: one button for menu and a back button.

Netflix Put Content Servers at Google Fiber Facilities

Jeffrey Burgan, Director of Network Engineering at Google Fiber:

We have also worked with services like Netflix so that they can ‘colocate’ their equipment in our Fiber facilities. What does that mean for you? Usually, when you go to Netflix and click on the video that you want to watch, your request needs to travel to and from the closest Netflix data center, which might be a roundtrip of hundreds or thousands of miles. Instead, Netflix has placed their own servers within our facilities (in the same place where we keep our own video-on-demand content). Because the servers are closer to where you live, your content will get to you faster and should be a higher quality.

Eagerly waiting for Google Fiber to come to San Jose.

12-inch iPad Pro

Dan Frommer, Quartz:

Really, Microsoft has just made a good argument for Apple to release a larger (and even thinner) iPad Pro sometime sooner than later — that actually sounds great.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 sports a 12-inch 3:2 (1.5:1) display. The iPads are all 4:3 (1.33:1). If an iPad Pro were to grow in size to 12 inches I think it might be too wide (in portrait mode), but I also don’t think Apple would change the aspect ratio. Usability for a 12-inch 4:3 iPad Pro might be less than ideal.

Motorola Moto E

Vlad Savov, The Verge:

Its camera is terrible, it cannot play back Full HD video, and there’s no LTE option. The LCD display also exhibits a subtle rainbow-like color cast when displaying pure white backgrounds. Those are all limitations I can tolerate, however.

The US$129 Moto E sports a 4.3-inch 960×540 display. I can tolerate the lack of LTE, but I can’t tolerate a “rainbow-like color cast” or a terrible camera. $129 is cheap, but it’s still $129 of my money. Just to compare you can pick up a used iPhone 4s, which has an awesome display, and takes pretty good photos, for about $130 on Craigslist.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Watched the Microsoft Surface Event today and here’s some of my observations. The display is 12 inches with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Remember 3:2? That’s the aspect ratio the first iPhone had and all the way up to the iPhone 4s. Then Apple made the dumb mistake of making it 16:9. 3:2 is close to the aspect ratio of paper and that was intentional: Microsoft wants you to get work done on the Surface Pro 3. In fact Microsoft wants you to ditch your notebook for a Surface Pro 3. I can see myself ditching my MacBook Pro and my iPad. The only thing keeping me back is not the hardware, which I think is pretty cool, but the operating system.

The Surface Pro 3 is claimed to sport the thinnest display stack on a tablet, or was it a notebook, or was it both. Probably both. There’s good reason: when you’re using a stylus, a thick display stack will put your stylus visually above the digital ink. Not a good experience. The Surface Pro 3 comes with a stylus that looks and feels like a real pen, because Microsoft wants you to use the stylus like a real pen. One example: Click the back of the stylus like you would a real pen and the Surface Pro 3 comes to life, puts you right into OneNote, and you can immediately start writing that awesome idea you had while you were dreaming. With a thin display stack the digital ink is where the tip is, which should make the experience of writing on the 12-inch paper-like display really nice.

One last thing about the Surface Pro 3’s display: 2160×1440 pixels. That’s two 1080×1440 windows side by side, which is just the way I like it. Two windows on an iPad sounds complicated, but two windows on a tablet that’s designed to replace a notebook sounds good.