Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right

As one of the remembrance of the late Steve Jobs’ 59th birthday, Tim Cook cited ‘Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.’ in his Twitter account. Of course, that statement also has a double meaning to get back to those who criticize Apple under his regime hasn’t release any new blockbuster products since iPad in 2010 which Steve Jobs was still running Apple. 

I think this statement actually is more meaningful than the other one ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’ when I read the story of the Galaxy S5 that Samsung released yesterday. That phone, along with the Gear 2, Gear Neo, and Gear Fit, seems to me as ‘half-baked’ products that if they were made by Apple under that statement of ‘Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right’, they just won’t be released! That’s it!

It’s not like that those products are bad, leveraging what works before, i.e. S3, is understood. However, the fact is that they can do better!  I think the new S5 as the flagship phone for Samsung is not even on par with iPhone 5S, let along Apple will have its iPhone 6 coming out in about 7 months. The only better thing about S5 is the dust and water resistant capability that I would like to see Apple to adopt in its future products. Other than that, most other features are more like grimmicks to me. I would not say Apple’s products never have grimmicks, but they are usually tagged with a killer feature and I don’t see S5 has any killer feature. I would suggest people who look down on Apple now should go to buy its stock. Since the biggest criticism of iPhone is its screen size and iPhone 6 will certainly address that, given the lackluster S5 in comparison to iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 will more likely to triumph over Samsung and taking back some market share from Samsung. On top of the higher margin of iPhone among most smartphones, and Apple’s recent purchase of its own stocks in the market, Apple shareholders should have a happy 2015 1Q. That’s my prediction for now.

I think Apple is right to take its time to see how the market receives the Samsung watches and the new generation of smart wearable from Pebbles, Fit bit, etc., before releasing iWatch. Since those companies and products don’t come with the aura of Apple brand, and Apple has done it before that it release market disruptive products that are not necessary new, but an improved version that the market wants. I think iWatch will be another one. Cuz, I think it is not just a new product per se for Apple, but it will be a carrier of another lines of new business, be that in health and fitness, security and identification, games and device control, payment, etc, that branched out of the iOS eco-system, the sky is the limit.

As a side track thought, personally I really like the touch ID feature of iPhone 5S, it makes my life easy. I use it and appreciate it much more than Siri which I rarely use.  Lately, I do think of a scenario that shows the downside of the touch ID. Friends or just people around an drunken iPhone 5S owner can actually access his/her phone easily by simply holding his/her thumbs to unlock his/her iPhone 5S. It is actually less secure than before when a password is needed. So, I guess  it would be better for an iPhone 5S owner to turn off the Touch ID feature before going to drink if he or she doesn’t want to give out whatever on his/her phone to people around him/her in few hours. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thoughts on few recent tech news – Facebook/Whatsapp/Samsung/Xiaomi

For a person who pays attention to the tech field, there are just so much going on recently that I can’t really help but wanna share my 2 cents of thought about some news items:

Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp – Well US19billion sounds like a huge amount, and indeed it is, but some news critics are really right that it is a rich tech company using its high price stock to make this purchase. The actual cash portion is mere US$3billion. That’s still a lot! I don’t know whether this purchase justifies the cost, but I think it makes sense as of now. Being an active FB user myself, I can’t recall if I’ve ever used FB Messenger. Whatsapp is my message app of choice and I like it very much. I don’t know how FB can make money from me down the road, but the 450M client base is certainly attractive. If FB can’t build its own and it can afford it, this purchase makes sense since it instantly expands its kingdom to become dominant in mobile communication field. Just coming in today that, Whatsapp will add feature to allow users to make voice call in next quarter, that would make it in direct competition with Skype and Viber. Perhaps, next phase will be video call like Facetime, or group video conference call even. That would be very nice! Meanwhile, I would imagine FB will imitate what Tencent is doing with WeiSin down the road, to develop something in mobile commerce. Just stay tune.

Samsung Galaxy S5, Gear 2, Gear Neo and Gear Fit – Just announcement of these products by Samsung doesn’t really surprise me much. The biggest selling point of S5 is the finger print reader integration with Paypal. That would be nice and I think Apple would do the same in near future. However, the phone itself doesn’t wow me in its form factor, the flat back with leather feel is nice. But it seems to me as 50% effort of only working on the back but nothing change on the front and edge, unless Apple, HTC when they revamp their form factor, they real show they dare to do it over. The water proof ability for S5 is nice as well, but the grimmick thing of adding a heart-rate sensor to the phone itself is kinda weird. I don’t wanna press my phone to my heart all the time, ever!  Android 4.4 is a given, no surprise there, look and feel of the screen has changed a little bit. As I’m not an Android user, can’t comment on that. The usage of Tizen on smartwatch should get Google thinking that perhaps S6 or S7 down the road would be using Tizen rather than Android. It is so obvious that Samsung doesn’t want to be bounded by Google. I don’t know much about Tizen, but I think it would still need few years (if it ever can) to catch up Android or iOS, provided that Samsung’s phones will still being sold really well. I think it is gonna be quite interesting, if Google and Samsung go for a split, would that benefit Apple? 

The release of Gear 2 is normal, given the poor reception of Gear 1. I still don’t know if it will do much better than Gear 1. Don’t know how the Gear Neo will be positioned, a strip-down version of Gear 2? Gear Fit with heart-rate sensor is surely going a head-on with iWatch. I think I would need to know a bit more before I would think this is gonna be good or not. Certainly, its integration with Galaxy devices would help and going for the health/fitness sector as a start is a safe bet. Apple is thinking the same way, but I think Apple would do a bit more as a late comer. The Gear Fit belt looks a bit cheap to me, though it is exchangeable, it is plastic anyway! It’s my first impression of the product. I’m not sure how that horizontal and vertical bouncing view of the UI works with the pedometer. Would it make users to bend  necks to read the screens? 

Xiaomi Redmi – This phone is sold quite well in its existing market, given its price and spec combination. However, I still don’t see it as the next Samsung or Apple as some critics might think. Xiaomi’s sale is based on price, it means that it can’t profit from a higher margin. Indeed, no one does except Apple. Secondly, it uses Android. I doubt it will have its own ‘Tizen’ anytime soon. So, its neck is holding by Google. Thirdly, everybody is trying to build its own eco-system. Microsoft is trying, but it is a distant 3rd. Apple succeeds. Google…well, after it sold Motorola to Lenovo, it doesn’t look like it wants to emulate Apple to have an OS-hardware-Services ecosystem. Samsung is trying to build one, and I doubt Google would let it succeed. So, when it comes to Xiaomi, though they have a so-called charming CEO, I think it can only go as far as what PRC government protective strategy would allow it to go.  It would well sell tons in China which by no mean a huge market, but I doubt it will make a significant dent in US/Europe.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Apple and Tesla

The reported recent meeting of Tim Cook, Elon Musk, and the M&A chief of Apple has created a lot of whisper in the market about possible acquisition of Tesla by Apple. With over US$150 billion in cash on hand at Apple, a $25 billion acquisition of Tesla is not even a question financially. However, big acquisition has never been shown as part of Apple’s DNA. So, an ‘out of the box’ acquisition of getting into automobile industry really invites suspicion among people.

I think Apple is busy developing a lot of products, the iWatch, the iTV, the iHeadphone, etc. Most of them would be more closely related to their existing products and expertise. I’m sure iOS can be part of ‘experience’ in automobile, for back-seat infotainment, driver reference, alert, communication of all sorts. And, the latest guess about the theme of that meeting is about battery which would make a lot of sense as both company see battery as the key bottleneck in the development of their products. However, if it is really about battery, why the M&A chief was tagging along? Should that be the CIO, product design, engineer instead? Correct me if I’m wrong that I don’t see Tesla has a battery unit that it will be willing to sell to Apple! So, the presence of the M&A guy is really the key puzzle that makes people guessing! So, that US$25 billion acquisition is not really off the table as many people might think after all….Well, I guess time will tell.

Friday, February 14, 2014

‘What if…’ and Regret

Every now and then, I would be asked by my wife about some ‘What if’ scenarios, like:

What if we don’t have kids, our lives will be …

What if we bought an apartment after we got married, we would be…

What if I stay where I lived before, how my life now would be….

All these are valid questions, but I would never have good or correct answers for them. Cuz, our lives are always moving forward, there is no going back. Yes, there is a theory of parallel universes. i.e. there are infinite number of universes that every choice we made would lead to different outcomes and actually all those outcomes are moving forward somewhere else in other universes. Coming down to earth a little bit, that reminds me the old movie ‘Sliding Door’, about what happen to a girl who caught a particular subway and couldn’t catch that subway on a given day, the different encounters that led to respectively which produced drastic consequences. 

To be honest, unless I had nothing to do, I rarely thought about any ‘What if’ scenario myself, cuz they always lead to nowhere. We all are responsible for our lives which are by no mean perfect. Many people compare our life as a movie, and we are not only staring in it but also directing it. However, we in fact rarely have a script and even if we do, the movie would never turn out according to it. We don’t live like the movie ‘Truman Show’.  Also, life has no ‘take 2’. We always go along what we run into. Even for people with boring livelihood like myself. There are still some important encounters and events that we didn’t really seriously plan ahead, and did change our lives. I don’t have a good memory, but just a few examples, like how I get my first job after graduation, how I met my wife, just to name two. 

So, thinking about those ‘what if’ would be just a waste of time. Cuz, we can’t change anything regardless they are good or bad. That also relates to the issue of ‘regret’. Honestly, I can’t recall any big regret in my life. Not that I’ve a perfect life. However, as a responsible and sensible person, I fully shoulder all the consequences of most of the major decisions that I made. They are not the best, but they were mostly appropriated at the time they were made. We can’t change a lot of things that happen around us, but we can choose how we react to them. I am no saint, but I believe that I’m a decent human being that never intentionally tries to hurt anyone. That was probably reflected in the past decisions that I made and remember, that’s also why I don’t have any major regret. I think that’s very important, cuz that gives me comfort every night before I go to bed and give me reason to get up every morning. I can’t imagine living with a big regret throughout my life. I can imagine that would be very hard. Of course, God forbids if that happen to me, I would have to find way(s) to deal with it. However, I would rather prefer not to do anything that would lead to regret myself in the first place. Definitely, I still make mistakes, but they are not serious enough to become a life-long regret, thank God!

In the near future, I can see that there will be an important decision to be made. I’m doing some researches to see what would be the most reasonable choice that would perhaps lead to an optimal situation for myself and my family. Hopefully, things would turn out ok.  My fingers are crossed!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ten life lessons

The items below are what I’ve learned recently or reminded of what I did learn before but forgot. I hope it will be something that I would revisit from time to time and my sons would take a look when they are older.

Don’t live in a hole – I’ve been getting too comfortable or short-sighted about my life flow. I.e. getting up, going to work, lunch, work till out of office, get home for dinner, see family, run some errands, check online, then go to bed. Weeks in, weeks out, this kind of life would be too comforting, predictable, routine, or manageable. But, these kinds of daily routine for too much for too long is not good for the brain. Simulation is important! I’m not saying to jump out of the plane or something, but our mind need stimulation, not just one-way stimulation of serving the web for new things, or talking to people that we talk to all the time which would not be a challenge for us to provide acceptable response. But, going to places and talking to people, don’t need to get too far or some total strangers, just some old friends, or someone just we don’t talk to frequently will provide surprises or stimulation to get us thinking. That’s important!

Self-reflection is important – need to challenge yourself, playing your own devil’s advocate. Criticize your actions, doubt your own decision, try to break out or to take one more step outside your comfort zone.  Making small mistakes are ok, otherwise, we won’t grow and improve. A short term and small regret is actually manageable, as long as you can get bigger return and improve in future.

Take time for yourself – don’t just give yourself to others. Serving others, taking care of the others are important, but don’t do that to an extent that you don’t have time for yourself. Cuz, only giving yourself to others for an extensive period of time is not necessary a good thing. It is an honor to be a giver, but we do need time to take care our own soul. It needs to relax, to heal, to rejuvenate and to do better. A bandage is not enough to heal a wound, it takes time. Don’t over push yourself to an extent that you would start to doubt whether you should continue to give and to help others anymore. Give yourself a break or breaks every now and then. Every car need and deserve a tune-up every x miles. 

Take time to organize – we live a busy life with many errands to run, make use of modern technology as tools to help us to memorize, organize, be reminded, and execute. Otherwise, we will live with a mess. Prioritize our tasks, organize our assets in searchable way, protect our information, keep schedule of reminders of dates (e.g. credit card expiration, birthdays, account maturity, etc). Clean our closet, sometimes putting on new clothes may make us happy. Of course, we should never waste our resources, to be too materialistic, to ‘overdo’ anything.  

Set some long, medium and short term goals – as I said, don’t ‘overdo’ it, but don’t be lazy either! Life without goals is easy, because you won’t be disappointed, but it could be a wait of time. Cuz, a goal would help you to get better, organize, and motivate to do things, to improve ourselves. Otherwise, we would be directionless and like a leave in the river. We would fail without knowing it, and will never succeed, because we simply give up measuring and judging ourselves!  It’s never too late to improve and to drive ourselves.
Don’t wastes resources – we come to the earth with nothing and will leave with nothing either. As such, material things are only important when we see them as important. We can’t live well and happy without them, but they are not our purpose of life. They are just tools to help us to help ourselves and others. So, don’t give up our soul for them or lose sleep over them. Just treat them as tools and live with them. Earn them honestly and use them wisely!

Be spiritual – I recently surprised myself for saying this, for being a rational, logical person who value the brain more than the heart most of my life! But, our mind, spirit, soul or whatever we call it is strong as well as weak. Being scientific and spiritual at the same time is actually fine, there shouldn’t be any conflict. They can and should coexist in order for us to be a smart human! 99% of the time, we can keep both in our head in balance, just use them when it applies. Don’t discriminate one or the other. Their co-existence in ‘harmony’ makes us successful human. The truth and love can co-exist!

Take care of yourself – have some frequent workout, even it is a light one, it would better than doing nothing. Our capability is the sum of our spirit and body. We need to take care of both.  A bookworm is weak, fragile, and unsustainable. A jock is a human ‘tool’ that would be manipulated by others. It is not about 50-50, but about a balance that would keep both side healthy and happy. Select our foods, have health check, listen to our body, do some stretching, Tai Chi, Yoga, or whatever that would make us healthy. Nothing would wish to be sick, and no sick person is a happy person. A healthy body would give us confidence to use our intelligence, to do good to the people around us, and to make a positive difference.

Be humble as well as confident – they are not in conflict with each other. A humble person is a blunted weapon. A confident person is a brave and smart soldier. A blunted weapon is blunted, but it is still a weapon. Don’t be deceived by the look, it just looks less harmful and threatening, but it can still kill if being used by a brave and smart soldier in battle. Life is a war, and our daily life is full of battles, at work, at school, at home, etc. Don’t kill the innocent, protect the weak, and we can only do that if we are not innocent nor weak! So, be prepared and alert.

There is always hope – as long as we believe there is. Hope and goal are different and not self-contradict with each other. Hope is less tangible, a driver that get us ‘there’. There are always bad things happening in the world and near us. As long as we choose to live, we should have hope. Otherwise, our life would be meaningless which should not be the case. The ‘half-glass full’ theory is helpful and put us in perspective, but we shouldn’t live with it all the time. If we are in dark, look up the firefly! If we are in heaven, help others to join us!