The Week In Review – May 12-18, 2013

The Week In Review is a weekly digest of what I found interesting in tech over the last week. It consists of the story of the week, a summary of stratechery articles and links, a huge collection of links that I found noteworthy (plus commentary), and my favorite tweets of the week. I post this weekly at stratechery and email it to the stratechery mailing list (sign up here).

Yahoo is in talks to buy Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash. While I held out hope Yahoo’s big purchase would be Dropbox, Tumblr makes sense; Yahoo will be able to offer advertisers a full set of channels that serve most demographics. That’s where the synergy is – I don’t think anyone expects Tumblr users to suddenly develop an affinity for Yahoo. Yahoo clearly continues to not have an affinity for the letter ‘e’.

Google’s IO conference dominated the news this week. The Verge’s storystream has 47 stories and counting, and it’s not a bad place to start. It almost feels pointless to try and summarize in a paragraph. What was notable was how little attention was paid to Android. As noted below, I don’t think this was an accident. Android was only ever a detour.

BlackBerry held its annual developer conference as well this week. Announcements included US availability information for the Q10 (no carriers were actually called out), the new low-cost Q5 (no price was actually called out), and that BlackBerry Messenger would be made available for iPhone and Android (no continued reason to buy BlackBerry was actually called out).

It was a great week on stratechery. I greatly appreciate your spreading the word about stratechery and following @stratechery.

Articles | Linked List Items | Other Links Worth Reading | Tweets of the Week


  • The Facebook Flop

    In addition to a bit I-told-you-so, I decry the cavalier way that many in tech still approach design.

    I’m glad we all agree that “Design isn’t how it looks, it’s how it works.” But that’s not enough. Design is about identifying, understanding, and ultimately feeling your end users’ needs, and then meeting those needs. Facebook Home, like countless SV startups, looks beautiful, works elegantly, and doesn’t meet any needs.

    Read the whole thing

  • The Android Detour

    I thought the IO keynote made it clear: For Google, Android was a detour from their focus on owning and dominating web services; it ensured that those services would be freely accessible in this new world of computing, including on the iPhones and iPads that were used liberally in nearly every keynote demo. And, now that Android is successful, Google is back to focusing on “the best of Google”.

    I think this one is destined for the “Keepers” list.

    Read the whole thing

  • Asha to Asha

    Nokia released two phones last week: one critically important called the Asha 501, and one simply iterative called the Lumia 925. If the company returns to prominence the headliner will likely be Asha, thanks to a strategy predicated on identifying a new axis of competition instead of simply trying to be a little bit better.

    Read the whole thing

Linked List Items

  • Facebook Phones and the future of mobile communication — link — On mobile, Facebook is an app, not a platform. No successful platform can be built on advertising.
  • As of today, every major competitor…also makes apps for iOS — link — This isn’t that surprising; just follow the money.
  • The tragic beauty of Google+ — link — I argue that Google+ is not a social network, but an identity system, and that it’s been a huge success.
  • Paul Otellini’s Intel — link — Intel didn’t pass on making the iPhone’s SoC just because of cost, but also because of their identity. A good follow-on to The Intel Opportunity.

Around the Web

News & Analysis:

  • Tableau, Marketo surge in debuts for software IPOs — link — The IPO window is open, particularly for enterprise SaaS startups. I don’t see this particular window closing, either.
  • Twitter announced new video partnerships with ESPN, Fox, and the NBA — link|link — The clips will include ads, and ESPN et al will commit to a certain number of promoted tweets per featured event.
  • ABC to live-stream its shows via app — link — I have a big post in me about the economics of TV and where I think things are headed. It’s pretty contrarian.
  • Sina Weibo will monetize through e-commerce, not ads, Alibaba CTO Jian says — link — This focus makes sense, given Alibaba’s investment, but the bigger point is that advertising-based business models just don’t work that well on mobile. Ask Facebook.
  • Elon Musk quits Zuckerberg’s immigration advocacy group — link — I worked in politics once upon a time, but quit within two months. It’s a dirty, dirty game.
  • ITV Player app for Android now a Samsung exclusive — link — Samsung has done quite a few of these deals lately; obviously it’s bad for “Android”; whether Google cares is another question.
  • SoftBank asks banks not to finance Dish’s Sprint bid — link — Softbank’s hardball tactics in their attempted Sprint acquisition give a hint as to the effect they could have on the U.S. wireless market.
  • China’s top chat app gets a WeChat-like makeover, but everyone hates it — link — One messes with mass-adopted computing institutions at one’s peril.
  • The growth story and future of mobile chat app giant LINE — link — Anything LINE-related is of far more interest to me personally, and likely of far more importance to the industry broadly, than BlackBerry Messenger.
  • T-Mobile raises iPhone price by $50, down payment on iPhone 5 starts at $150 — link — I always thought that $580 total price was a little fishy. I presume T-Mobile had been eating the cost.
  • AT&T’s Stephenson: Content players will subsidize consumer’s data — link — Example 52,381 of how cheapskates will ruin the Internet. Make no mistake: this is how net neutrality will die, and most customers will welcome it with open arms.
  • New U.S. wireless customers chose no-contract over contract by 10 to 1 in Q1 — link — Just about anyone who would buy a subsidized phone now has one; it’s about stealing share going forward.
  • Galaxy S4 sales to top 10 million — link — The S4 went on sale April 26 and is the fastest selling phone in Samsung history. Worth nothing the iPhone 5 sold 5 million it’s first weekend.
  • A stretched Samsung chases rival Apple’s suppliers — link — Samsung’s supply chain has always been much more vertically integrated than Apple’s, but their volume is forcing them to compete for Apple’s suppliers. It’s other smartphone companies like HTC that are the casulties though.
  • Apple mobile devices approved for use on U.S. military networks — link — One of the last remaing BlackBerry fortresses falls. Samsung has also been approved.
  • EA has no games in development for Nintendo’s Wii U — link — Ouch. An EA developer proceeded to pour salt on the wound.
  • Georgia Tech, Udacity To Offer Master’s Degree in Computer Science — link — This is a pretty big deal: Georgia is a top-five CS school, and the entire program will cost less than $7,000.

Charts of the Week:

  • Mobile is eating the world — link — A fantastic set of slides from Benedict Evans.


  • Tail wagging — link — Matt Gemmell writes the definitive article on the skeuomorphic debate.
  • The corrosive downside of acquihires — link — As usual, the effect on culture is undervalued.
  • Why I hate acquihires…unless I’m doing the selling — link — On how acquihires contribute to Silicon Valley’s problem with “truthiness”.
  • Startups learn a painful lesson: The ‘Dropbox effect’ is a myth — link — Consumer applications don’t magically translate to the enterprise.
  • Why the new Google server farm could displace Adobe Lightroom — link — Photos is the biggest weakspot for the Chromebook, particularly for the prosumer. I’ve heard that solving it has been an internal focus for years.
  • Welcome to Google Island — link — Amazing.
  • All the mashed potatoes — link — A spot-on evisceration of Google’s hypocrisy. Google is doing some amazing things, but it’s really hard to respect them as long as they keep up the duplicity.
  • Supply and demand of digital product designers — link — An argument that as designers become more valued/expensive, they become spread too thin, and thus lose their value.
  • Napster, Udacity, and the Academy — link — From last year, probably the definitive piece on massive online-only courses (MOOC’s).


  • Paul Otellini’s Intel: Can the company that built the future survive it? — link — The Atlantic profiles Otellini upon his official departure from Intel. The article highlights Intel’s growth and revenues, but I’ve long thought history would judge Otelline harshly for the 2006 of XScale; this makes the judgment more damning with the aforementioned iPhone revelation.
  • Bill Gates on Steve Jobs: We grew up together — link — These clips of Bill Gates on 60 Minutes are really great.


  • Reforming English — link — Dale Franks created his own alphabet.
  • Too busy to blog? Count your keystrokes — link — I enjoyed and endorse this view of blogging.

Tweets of the Week

  • “I’m not saying Android sucks, because that would be completely untrue. I’m just saying if you want to game, buy Apple. Weird saying that.” @WhatTheBit
  • “Assessing Google Plus in metrics that would matter to Facebook completely misses the point” @benedictevans
  • “Puzzled how Bloomberg chief can call reporters’ access to Bloomberg data ‘inexcusable’ when it clearly was excused. Encouraged, even.” @charlesarthur
  • “Apple designs for the mass market but sells at a premium price. Android designs for geeky configurability but sells to the mass market.” @benedictevans
  • “MacOS X started shiny & skeuomorphic, but calmed down over time. This coincided w/ Steve shifting his attention to iPod & iOS. Co-incidence?” @benedictevans
  • “eBay: ‘There is going to be a fingerprint enabled phone on the market later this year. Not just one, multiple.'” @SammyWalrusIV
  • “Imagine what it’s like to be an anonymous AP source affiliated with a Tea Party group who uses Bloomberg terminals right now.” @hunterschwarz
  • “It’s gratifying to see ‘open’ Android used by Jeff Bezos to create the mother of all lock-ins: cash turned into un-tradable Amazon coins.” @counternotions
  • “It’s fine to iterate when you’re ahead. When you’re behind, you need to leapfrog.” @greengart
  • “Do you struggle with rational thinking and basic literacy? Let us know in the comments below” @bridger_w
  • “Re: Google’s three hour keynote, I’d like to point out that God was able to boil it down to 10 commandments – on a tablet.” @inafried
  • “As I see it, discovering music is not hard and best solved by kids sitting around doing bonghits. When that app is launched, let me know” @aweissman
  • “When it comes to the cloud, Google is doing what Apple is promising.” @chockenberry
  • “So Larry ‘we’re killing ActiveSync oh yeah and CalDAV too’ Page is upset about Microsoft’s lack of interop?” @DrPizza
  • “Come on. Platform wars are the story of the tech industry. To be sad about them is naive” @fmanjoo
  • “No third party partners on stage at Google IO. First half was stuff for developers; second half was Google’s walled garden” @BenedictEvans
  • “‘People are starving in the world not because we don’t have the food, but we’re not organized.’ He could be talking about this keynote too.” @mmasnick
  • “Musk certainly putting money where mouth is. Or is it mouth where money is?” @SammyWalrusIV
  • “Active Users: Spotify: 24M iTunes: 400M YouTube: 1B | Two of those are growing. Guess which isnt.” @aten
  • “I’m pretty sure that Microsoft’s YouTube app was a trap and that Google has fallen headfirst into it.” @clubdirthill
  • “Man, it feels more and more like 1999 every day. Risk is being discounted tremendously.” @bgurley
  • “Remember how Google stuff all used to be ugly and inconsistently designed? Android is the only reminder” @BenedictEvans
  • “If you whine about corporations ‘avoiding’ tax, ask yourself whether you voluntarily pay extra tax, then google ‘tax incidence’ then shut up” @VeryBritishDude
  • “In the context of Windows, ‘modern’ is a shorthand for ‘Dude, where is my start button?’.Post-modern is when they give it back.” @headinthebox
  • “They seem to have this thing about not enabling messaging from a tablet.” @getwired
  • “Look out Facebook! Hours spent participating per member dropping seriously. First really bad sign as seen by crappy MySpace years ago.” @rupertmurdoch
  • “Yahoo shuts down GeoCities then offers to buy Tumblr for $1 billion” @Carnage4Life
  • “Remember when great visual design correlated with well made software? Now everybody hires designers, and even the crappy apps look good.” @joehewitt
  • “Pro-tip for all the designers out there making iOS7 mockups. Don’t.” @cjdowner
  • “Raw ideas don’t deserve IP protection & well-executed products don’t need it.” @zonkola
  • “Ed boards really are the classic ‘no but I did sleep at a holiday inn express last night’ kinds of operations” @joshtpm
  • “Fascinating how references to Google as the new Microsoft (and not in a good way) have simply exploded since IO.” @benedictevans
  • “It’s too bad Nate Silver isn’t watching Eurovision, or we’d already know who won.” @blaine
  • “Assuming that Tumblr users will start knowing and loving Yahoo is like assuming all Symbian users will start using Windows Phone.” @TheRomit
  • “History is littered with tech companies that never had a comeback, not with those that did. That’s why we’re rooting for Yahoo.” @levie
  • “Think $1.1B is too much for Tumblr? Yahoo! bought for $5.7B ($10k/user) :-)” @TheRomit