WTF Weekly for July 26, 2019
Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk about anything I’ve included here.
If you’ve never spent a few days strolling the beach in Newport, Oregon, I officially advise right now that you do so as soon as possible. My family goes at least one a year, and we dwell in nice little condos and walk on the beach and wade into the water.
But now I’m home, and WTF Weekly demands my attention (as does my paying occupation, but let’s not go there).
Apple is now in the modem business, as we all suspected would be the case back when Intel announced it was selling off its smartphone modem business. Naturally there has been a lot of handwringing and verb slinging on the topic, but it really seems pretty straightforward a move to me.
Qualcomm doesn’t appear to be a beloved company in the semiconductor industry, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Apple wants to find a way out from under their reliance on the wireless chip monster. Apple likes to control their own destiny, and quite often when they have to rely too heavily on an outside party to supply them with a key component to their own products, they wind up disappointed at frustrated.
Overall, there are no surprises here. My only real question prior to this being finalized was whether or not Apple could make it happen (they’ve missed out on a couple other opportunities recently), but they put that to rest and now life goes on. I expect at some point in the next 2-10 years, Apple will no longer rely on Qualcomm for cellular modems.
I guess we should have seen this coming after Amazon and Google were caught listening to audio clips of people speaking to their digital assistants, but Apple bangs its privacy drum often enough that I guess it lulled us into complacency.
More to the point, Siri is bad enough at understanding and performing the simplest requests that one could be forgiven for thinking that no one has ever bothered to analyze Siri performance with an eye towards improving it, let alone that they’re actively monitoring our speech.
Jason Snell says it best:
Bottom line: It doesn’t matter to me if this is Amazon or Apple. I don’t want human beings listening to the audio these devices record. In fact, I don’t want recordings made of my audio, period—I want the audio processed and immediately discarded.
I don’t know how speech detection and digital voice assistants can ever get any better without real humans listening to interactions and determining where they went wrong. But I also know that not a single one of us ever wants other people listening to things we say to our phones or speakers, regardless of how innocent it may seem.
Tesla, not unlike Elon Musk, is a fascinating entity. Tesla makes great cars that people love, and inspires people to believe in and long for a fully-electric automotive future. On the other hand, it’s also one of the worst run companies on the planet in terms of customer service.[^And probably employee satisfaction.]
Tesla, mostly via Elon Musk, has long exhibited signs of reality denial. The bit about difficulty in contacting real humans to resolve problems is something I’ve heard from multiple Tesla owners. As bad as “normal” American car companies are, at least there is always a dealership you can go to and demand action from someone when your car is broken.
I want Tesla to succeed for many reasons. I think it’s an important car company with an important mission. I also think Elon Musk is the wrong guy to be in charge when it comes to figuring out customer service and car repair logistics.
I have some thoughts about this. First of all, I don’t believe cats communicate with the dead. I think cats are from another planet instead.
Still, who doesn’t love a cat story?
Secondly, I like Japanese convenience stores too. It’s possible that when I get old, I’ll move back to Japan and lie down in front of a Japanese convenience store and refuse to move. I can think of worse ways to see out my final days.
Finally, I’m very excited that I could read several of the kanji in the letter outside the store, including 本日早朝。
This last one isn’t really something that happened this week, but I did read it this past week, so that must count for something. It’s the weirdest bit of high-tech-collides-with-Americana thing I’ve seen in a while, and it’s what happens when a place you’d never imagine anyone living there would have ever heard of Bitcoin bets their future on it.
I think we all know how the cryptocurrency gold rush dream is going at the moment.