I Don't Typically Do This

Feb 20 2014

Why $16B for WhatsApp Isn’t Ridiculous

This tweet by Espen Antonsen about Microsoft’s 1997 acquisition of Hotmail got me thinking about acquisition costs per user, so I ran the numbers for other social network acquisitions.

It turns out that Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp at $35.56/user ($42.22/user if we also include the $3B in RSUs) is in line with average acquisition costs of $35-$40/user.

Acquisition Costs Per User Graph

Acquisition Costs Per User Table

Sources:

Oct 31 2013

Blown Away: The Olympus OM-D EM-5

Yonghe Temple Lotus

For better or worse, I make major photographic equipment decisions shortly before I get on a plane to a far off land. Though I’ve taken my Canon 40D on multiple trips, I’ve always felt limited by its size and its shortcomings in low-light (despite shooting with an f/1.4 prime and an f/2.8 zoom). Shortly before my trip to China this past May, my Gear Acquisition Syndrome flared up and I began looking for a replacement.

Since the 40D’s release six years ago, Canon’s prosumer line of cameras hasn’t improved much. I considered upgrading to the 5D Mark II, which has a full-frame sensor that provides better performance in low-light, but the prospects of doing so became much less compelling after I compared its size and weight to my already burdensome 40D.

So began my research into mirrorless systems. I had already toyed with a Micro-4/3 system camera a few years back, but it’s lack of a viewfinder really turned me off. Sony’s NEX-6 and NEX-7 have received good reviews, but the Olympus OM-D EM-5 was really the king of mirrorless cameras.

OM-D EM-5

I found a great deal on a black OM-D EM-5 with the 17mm f/1.8 and 45mm f/1.8 prime lenses and picked up the 9-18mm lens for ultra-wide shooting. Although the two prime lenses have great reputations, I expected a drop off in image quality, low light capability, and usability due to the camera’s smaller sensor and body. The camera proved me wrong right away when I took the camera to see a band made up of second-year MBAs perform at Webster Hall late last semester. Due to the increase in noise associated with higher ISOs, I don’t feel comfortable cranking the 40D past ISO 1600. That night, however, the fast-moving subjects and lack of light forced me to shoot the E-M5 at ISO 6400. I expected the images to be full of noise and generally not publishable, but I was blown away by the camera’s performance.

The images are not completely noise-free, but the noise has, as Jonathan Auch describes it, “a very special, almost organic or ‘film-like’, quality”. Rather than detract from the photograph by showing the limitations of the equipment it was captured on, the noise adds to the aesthetic quality of the image.

Thanks to the camera’s performance and it’s small size, I feel comfortable taking the camera anywhere – I no longer fear that a lack of available light will result in me carrying around a heavy, useless piece of equipment. The Olympus’s small size also makes it feel less intrusive to shoot with. While I do feel more comfortable shooting through the electronic viewfinder, not having to hold up a cubic foot of camera to my face to snap a picture allows me to be subtler in my captures. Thanks to the tilting screen, I can literally shoot from the hip to capture candids that I never would have been able to capture on time or had the nerve to shoot with a larger DSLR.

In Cahoots

The rise of excellent optics in smartphones has already put a crunch on the point and shoot market. If an iPhone 5s’ camera is good enough for National Geographic, it’s good enough for Joe’s family vacation. Image quality in smartphone cameras are “good enough” for dedicated use and an abundance of sharing options on all mobile platforms make getting photos out into the world much easier than having to find a USB cable or card reader to get photos on to a computer.

Similarly, the performance of mirrorless systems (Canon and Nikon’s half-hearted attempts notwithstanding) has come close to matching that of DSLRs. While there are still some high-end pursuits that require top-notch image quality at all cost, most hobbyist photographers will find that the convenience of a mirrorless kit, weighing a third of their DSLR kit, that still produces excellent qualities make the decision a no-brainer.

The far superior performance-to-weight ratio of this breed of cameras cannot be overstated. The OM-D EM-5 is light and small enough that I have it in my bag and carry it with me every day. It’s no longer the case that “the best camera is the one I have with me”, but rather, “I always have the best camera with me”.

Feb 24 2013

Shooting Without A Viewfinder

Mona Lisa 1

Justin Blanton on the RX1:

My biggest hangup with the RX1 is psychological. Frankly, I just kind of feel like an idiot using it. It doesn’t have a viewfinder (optical or electronic) and so to frame shots you’re left to hold the camera in front of you and look at the (stunning) LCD display…like an octogenarian tourist trying to get a snap of the Mona Lisa. The process just feels a little silly to me after having spent so many years hiding my face behind large DSLR bodies and lenses. You definitely look like a fresh-out-of-Best-Buy amateur with this thing.

I’ve gone through a couple of viewfinder-less cameras in my search to find a lightweight replacement my DSLR and Justin sums up exactly how I felt after using them. It seems stupid to worry about how you feel when shooting, but if it’s something that keeps you from taking a shot, then the whole point of a carrying a more portable camera disappears, no matter how well it compares to a DSLR.

Sep 22 2012
My iPhone 4S cellular data usage stats from October 22, 2011 to September 22, 2012.

I used 11.4 GB of data in 336 days, or about 34 MB/day. For comparison, I used about 14 MB/day on my iPhone 4.

This continues the trend of increasing data usage with each new device, but the jump from the 4 to the 4S is the largest jump I’ve seen so far (2.4x increase in daily usage). I would attribute the large increase do to my the amount of traveling I did this year. Without WiFi, I relied on my phone quite a bit, especially in countries where tethering was allowed.

See here for my iPhone 4 data usage.See here for my 3GS data usage.See here for my 3G data usage.See here for my original iPhone data usage.

My iPhone 4S cellular data usage stats from October 22, 2011 to September 22, 2012.

I used 11.4 GB of data in 336 days, or about 34 MB/day. For comparison, I used about 14 MB/day on my iPhone 4.

This continues the trend of increasing data usage with each new device, but the jump from the 4 to the 4S is the largest jump I’ve seen so far (2.4x increase in daily usage). I would attribute the large increase do to my the amount of traveling I did this year. Without WiFi, I relied on my phone quite a bit, especially in countries where tethering was allowed.

See here for my iPhone 4 data usage.
See here for my 3GS data usage.
See here for my 3G data usage.
See here for my original iPhone data usage.

Mar 19 2012

Living Without The iPad

Matt Alexander, on what he came to realize after living a few weeks without an iPad:

The iPad is a means for productivity, entertainment, and communication - it encompasses the tasks we have so often spread across mediums into one centralized and fantastic location. But, in doing so, the door is open for inadvertent and helpless absorption into its environment. Into allowing oneself to reach for the iPad when you would otherwise be open for valuable thinking, reading, writing, and whatever else may be of importance to you.

Sent from my iPad

Mar 07 2012

The “Disappointing” iPad 3

Marco Arment, writing about speculation that the iPad 3 will be disappointing, even before anyone has seen it:

Knowing no more than you do right now, I can guarantee you: the iPad 3 will disappoint a lot of armchair tech commentators, “analysts”, and anyone who gets paid by the pageview. (How convenient.)

We see this “disappointing” talk from many of the old-timers because they’ve spent 25 years writing about specs and that’s the lens they use to look at the iPad. “It’s not getting a quad-core processor? Android tablets have quad-core chips. How disappointing.”

They don’t care that Apple and third parties ship software that utilizes both cores (iMovie, GarageBand) and that hardly anyone ships Android software that utilizes more than one core, much less all four. They don’t care that Apple may have tweaked last year’s dual-core chip to get better performance and better battery life. According to them, since 2=2 and 2 < 4, the iPad 2 is a lackluster upgrade and is empirically worse than an Android tablet.

Meanwhile, 50 million people couldn’t care less what’s inside an iPad. All that matters is that the hardware and software work together to make a delightful experience. Just look at what Om Malik wrote about giving his iPad 2 to his mother in India:

It didn’t matter how it was happening — just that she could talk to her grandson who was oceans apart from her. If there ever was a moment that captured the emotion in a piece technology, that was it. The look on her face made me realize how lucky I am to write about an industry that makes such things possible. I also thought to myself, maybe somewhere Steve Jobs is smiling too.

Like I said before: It’s not about what it is. It’s about what it does.

Mar 06 2012

Microsoft’s Halo Effect Opportunity

There have been reports over the past few weeks that Microsoft is working on a version of Office for the iPad. The main downside most think of to selling an iPad Office suite is that Office is the missing piece to the iPad puzzle and that enterprises will flock to the iPad in lieu of Windows 8 tablets once Office becomes available. There are two issues with this scenario: (1) the iPad is doing fine in the enterprise without Microsoft’s help; and, (2) Microsoft shouldn’t care if they make $15 off of Office for iPad or a Windows 8 license.

Office for iPad actually presents Microsoft with a great opportunity. It’s no secret that Windows Phone 7 reviews well but doesn’t sell well. Part of it has to do with a weak marketing effort on Microsoft’s part, but a lack of enthusiasm among frontline sales reps plays a huge role as well. The average consumer walks into a carrier store knowing about the iPhone, but may be swayed to pick up an Android handset at the salesperson’s behest (which in turn is driven by incentives). Windows Phone never enters the conversation.

Windows 8’s Metro interface is reviewing well, as Gruber mentions in a link to Christian Cantrell’s review of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, but again, Microsoft faces a perception problem. iPads and Macs are eating up PC sales, and so many won’t even give Windows 8 a shot.

Now imagine a world where the average consumer walks into the store knowing about the iPhone and having been wowed by Office for iOS’s Metro interface. Office for iOS isn’t going to push Windows Phone to #1 or #2, but at least Microsoft will be back on the radar. Even if users have already chosen the iPad for their tablet, an Office/Metro halo effect can drive those iPad users to Windows PCs and phones.

Along those lines, an iOS version of Office also allows Microsoft to establish a foothold with their own ecosystem – particularly their cloud storage solution, SkyDrive. If a user becomes dependent on Office for iOS and ends up storing all their documents on their personal SkyDrive or their company’s SharePoint server (because that’s all Office for iOS supports), they will likely seek out a PC solution that’s compatible with what they currently have. So would they rather go with a Mac, whose version of Office is usually a year or two behind the Windows version and never offers the same exact features, or go with Windows, whose version of Office receives first-class support from Microsoft and uses that cool Metro interface that they wish all of iOS had?

Oct 24 2011
My iPhone 4&#8217;s usage stats from July 9, 2010 to October 12, 2011.

I used 5.6&#160;GB in 410 days (460 days minus 50 days spent out of the country for work), or about 13.6&#160;MB/day. For comparison, my iPhone 3GS used 3.1&#160;GB in 381 days, or 8.13&#160;MB/day.

It&#8217;s not quite the doubling I saw when going from 1st Gen to 3G or 3G to 3GS, something I would attribute to iOS 5, which I&#8217;ve been running since the early summer. I always had WiFi off prior to iOS 5, but with the new wireless syncing feature, I am using WiFi exclusively at home and at work and only dropping down to 3G when I&#8217;m not at either.

In contrast, I got my 4S Saturday morning and was out of town until Sunday afternoon. The usage counter on the 4S reads 53.4&#160;MB, or about 25.7&#160;MB/day.

See here for my 3GS data usage.

See here for my 3G data usage.

See here for my original iPhone data usage.

My iPhone 4’s usage stats from July 9, 2010 to October 12, 2011.

I used 5.6 GB in 410 days (460 days minus 50 days spent out of the country for work), or about 13.6 MB/day. For comparison, my iPhone 3GS used 3.1 GB in 381 days, or 8.13 MB/day.

It’s not quite the doubling I saw when going from 1st Gen to 3G or 3G to 3GS, something I would attribute to iOS 5, which I’ve been running since the early summer. I always had WiFi off prior to iOS 5, but with the new wireless syncing feature, I am using WiFi exclusively at home and at work and only dropping down to 3G when I’m not at either.

In contrast, I got my 4S Saturday morning and was out of town until Sunday afternoon. The usage counter on the 4S reads 53.4 MB, or about 25.7 MB/day.

See here for my 3GS data usage.

See here for my 3G data usage.

See here for my original iPhone data usage.

Oct 12 2011

The #1 Reason Non-Techies Should Upgrade to iOS 5

The latest version of the iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS 5, comes out today and is available for third and fourth generation iPod touches, all iPads, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.

There are a ton of great features included in the update, but the feature that will have the most profound impact, especially for people who don’t plug their devices into their computers every day, is free iCloud backup. In addition to copying any new content to the device, iTunes also backs up your device’s data to the computer. The type of data that is backed up includes:

  • Photos and videos in your Camera Roll
  • Messages
  • App data
  • Device settings
  • Home screen layout

If you ever lose your device and need to get a new one, you can restore the device using the latest backup and the device will look exactly as it did at the time the last backup was taken. The key here is “at the time the last backup was taken”. If you haven’t plugged your phone into your computer in a month and then need to replace it, all of the photos, videos, text messages, and notes taken in the past month are gone. Even better: you can restore the device from anywhere there’s a WiFi connection – you don’t have to wait to get home to get up and running.

With iCloud backup, your device is backed up to Apple’s servers daily, as long as it’s plugged in and connected to WiFi. BOOM You no longer have an excuse for not having an up-to-date backup of your phone.


HOW TO GET IT

In order to get iOS 5 and iCloud backup, you do need to update to iTunes 10.5 and you do have to plug your device into iTunes one last time (future software updates come directly to your phone – another benefit of having iOS 5). Once you plug the device in, iTunes will tell you that a new version of iOS is available and ask you if you want to upgrade. If it doesn’t, you can check manually by clicking on your device on the left hand side and then click “Check for Update” near the middle of the screen.

After the upgrade is complete, go into your device’s Settings, tap on iCloud and follow the instructions on the screen in order to set up iCloud and iCloud backup.

Oct 06 2011
"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

–Steven P. Jobs, 1955 – 2011

"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Steven P. Jobs, 1955 – 2011

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