Apple reaches record breaking $700 billion market cap →

Apple Insider:

Shares of Apple fluctuated around the $100 mark until mid-October when the company reported a record September quarter, earning $8.5 billion in profit on sales of 39 million iPhones and 5.5 million Macs. Investors are bullish on demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and also have high hopes for the debut of the new Apple Watch in early 2015.

Leaving Earth by Commander Chris Hadfield →

Nothing will move you like this speech given by Chris Hadfield at Ted in which he recounts moments before and the actual take-off of the rocket that brought him into space.

Nokia’s first device after Microsoft is an iPad mini clone that runs Android →

The Verge:

The only things missing here to complete the iPad mini look are a home button, chamfered edges, and an Apple logo. There’s even "Natural Aluminum" and "Lava Grey" color schemes, and a cover that looks suspiciously similar to Apple’s Smart Case. Nokia’s own N1 website also looks like it’s straight from Apple.com. Other specifications include a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. Nokia’s N1 also has an 8-megapixel camera at the rear, and a 5-megapixel version at the front.

Shameless design from Nokia.

Pay Phones in New York City Will Become Free Wi-Fi Hot Spots →

The New York Times:

In a statement, Mr. de Blasio called expanded broadband access “essential for everything we need to do to be a fair and just city,” adding that the system would be “the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world.”

The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications said the network would be 100 times as fast as average municipal Wi-Fi systems, and more than 20 times as fast as average home Internet service in the city. A two-hour movie, officials said, could be downloaded in about 30 seconds.

The kiosks’ Wi-Fi range will extend 150 feet in any direction, officials said. Up to 250 devices would be able to use the network at each kiosk without diminishing service and in heavily trafficked areas access points can be added.

Great idea.

Ars Technica reviews the Nexus 6 →

Ron Amadeo has mixed feelings about the smartphone. He points out a lot of compromises. It is more expensive than the Nexus 5 ($649 unlocked versus $350 for the Nexus 5). It has a bigger screen, but Android Lollipop does not take advantage of that extra space at the moment. The camera is okay is daylight, but bad in low light. Battery life is worse than the Nexus 5. Performance is worse too:

In our experience, the Nexus 6 was slower than the Nexus 5. Apps took longer to launch, tasks took longer to switch, and sometimes—particularly during heavy multitasking — our Nexus 6 liked to get stuck and pause for a few minutes while it thought about things. It would often “chug” during our normal usage and in general felt like a slow device.

The only great things about this device seem to be The Ambient Display and always-on voice commands, which are stock Android Lollipop features. With Ambient Display, the screen switches to dim black-and-white mode when a new notification arrives or when you pick up the phone. Without the press of any button, you get a battery-friendly glance at your notifications. With always-on voice commands, you can use the Google Search app just by saying “OK Google”, no need to press any button again. The Nexus 6’s only merit is to be the first smartphone to have these features.

Landing on a Comet, 317 Million Miles From Home →

Fantastic series of photographs taken by Rosetta and Philae! The last image is a great reminder of the crazy route Rosetta has taken during these 10 years and especially the crazy calculations that went into posing a robot on a rock traveling at more than 64,000 km/h.

Chris Dixon: the return of podcasting →

In this NY Mag article I previously linked to, Kevin Roose attributes the resurgence of podcasts to the newly connected cars systems, the ones you can connect your smartphone to and listen to any audio file you want. Following this article, Chris Dixon wrote a few words about other successful factors. These words especially stood out to me:

Podcasting, on the other hand, feels fresh in the same way that other forms of social media did 5-10 years ago. No one knows what the right way to podcast is. Very few people have followings. The expectations are low. You are rewarded mostly for being fresh and experimental. It’s the beginning of a new medium, and no one knows the rules. That’s what makes it exciting and attracts pioneering creators.

I’m already sold on podcasting. I listen to a ton of them, way more than music or watching TV, browsing the web, way more than any other form of media actually. I definitely see Chris Dixon’s point about experimentation and it clearly is the beauty of it.

However, I wonder how podcasts will conquer the hearts of a mainstream audience, especially in France. I guess the best introduction to them is via the traditional radio stations, which distribute their own shows as podcasts. Once accustomed to this new format, some listeners will subscribe to native podcasts.

I am not sure this will be enough though. I guess it will require one podcast series to be so good that the press will drive attention to it and introduce masses of people to this new format. Who is going to do this? A hobbyist? A big media organisation? A radio station?

Let’s see how it goes. I’m curious!

A day after launch, HTC sold the Nexus 9 for 50% off →

Last week precisely, I quoted The Verge’s review of the Nexus 9, specifically their overall feeling about the tablet and build quality. I added the following note:

Not that easy to build a convincing iPad competitor at the same price, it seems.

What was my surprise, when I read that one day after launch HTC cut the price by 50%.

Ars Technica:

We’ve seen widespread complaints about the new "premium" pricing strategy for the new Nexus devices, and to make matters worse, the Nexus 9 didn’t really live up to the "premium" price. With a price cut this deep just a day after launch, we have to wonder if the Nexus 9 is really worth $400. On Google Play, the device is still going for $400, but this is definitely an eyebrow-raising move by HTC.

We were able to buy one and actually got a confirmation e-mail. We’ll update this report should any new information on the situation become available.

Update: HTC just tweeted that it is "working on something for everyone who missed out," which makes it sound like more price cuts are coming.

Shocking!

A Study about banner blindness →

In my last post, I quoted Farhad Manjoo writing about banner ads and their decline. In his article, Manjoo linked to a study, published in March of 2013, about users’s responsiveness to banner ads. To follow up on my last post, here are the main results:

Infolinks, a global leader in monetizing digital advertising for publishers, brands and their agencies, today released the results of its first proprietary study examining the industry challenge of “banner blindness.” The message seems clear: Brands and publishers need to rethink banner ads.

Results showed that only 14% of respondents recalled the last display ad they saw and the company or product it promoted. Even with today’s sophisticated targeting technology, relevance remains a key challenge with only 2.8% of respondents stating that they thought the ad they saw was relevant to them.

  • Half of the users never click on online ads while 35% click on less than 5 ads a month.
  • Among online ad viewers, 75% saw the ad on their computer while the remaining 25% saw the ad on their phone or tablet.

Fall of the Banner Ad: The Monster That Swallowed the Web →

Farhad Manjoo for the New York Times:

These days, finally, the banner ad is in decline. That is because the web, the medium in which it has thrived, is also in decline. Today we live in a mobile, social world, spending most of our time online using apps that load faster and are much prettier and more useful than websites. Instead of banners, many of these apps, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, make money through ads that appear in users’ social feeds, rather than off to the side of the page.

But what’s so bad about banners?

For one, they have ruined the appearance and usability of the web, covering every available pixel of every page with clunky bits of sponsorship. More than that, banner ads perverted the content itself. Because they are so ineffective, banner ads are sold at low prices for high volume, which means to make any money from them, sites need to pull in major traffic. This business model instilled the idea that page views were a paramount goal of the web, thus spawning millions of low-rent, me-too sites bent on getting your click.

Finally, there is privacy. Behind just about every banner ad is a vast infrastructure designed to track your movements across the web to improve the effectiveness of ads that, according to several studies, most of us never view anyway.

Manjoo describes clearly why banner ads are declining. I can’t believe I still meet people who swear by them and cannot consider a campaign without them nowadays.

Amazon presents its new product, Echo →

Amazon:

Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, "Alexa." It’s also an expertly-tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.

Watching the video will give you a better understanding of what the Echo is.

I guess Amazon is being very subtle about the Echo though. They focus on information-based features, when they only want to put this device in your living-room so you buy more from them. It certainly looks kind of cool in the video, but I cannot figure out who is going to buy this. I’m curious to see, as always, what the first reviews are going to say about the voice recognition capabilities and hardware quality too.

This Is Why Australians Hate Starbucks →

Munchies:

[…] the biggest stumbling block in Starbucks’ attempt for Down Under domination is that Australia’s cafe culture is just too damn good.

Thanks to waves of Italian and Greek immigrants in the early 1950s, Australia adopted the art of espresso-drinking-as-a-social-lubricant much earlier than the United States. While Starbucks introduced Americans to a European Lite version of coffee shop culture, in Australia it was a latecomer to a party no one invited it to.

Sounds true to me, from what I’ve experienced.

Christopher Nolan: the man who rebooted the blockbuster →

Fantastic article from The Guardian about Christopher Nolan, his vision of filmmaking and the challenge he set himself with Interstellar. The whole story about Hans Zimmer and the trick Nolan pulled on him is great too.

Old photos of brilliant tech CEOs from the 80s and 90s →

A small collection of old pictures whose subjects are the innovators of Silicon Valley. It is interesting for the little pieces of insight below each of them.

They are taken from Fearless Genius, a project by photographer Doug Menuez. He followed Steve Jobs for more than 3 years starting in 1985 when starting up NeXT. As a result, other tech CEO’s opened their doors to him and he has been able to capture the early days of the digital revolution.

This webpage is only a teaser to Doug Menuez’s wider project, which involves a documentary, TV/Web series, education program and more. You can learn more about it on fearlessgenius.org.

CANAL+’s Zapping for its 30th birthday →

Watch this if you want to see how much CANAL+, and French TV in general, has changed over the last 30 years.

Ads Are Coming to the Comments Section of Disqus Websites →

Adweek:

“When people come to a page that has Disqus, we know what they’re reading,” said David Fleck, gm of advertising at the company. “We know if they choose to comment. We know what they comment on and know what they say in that comment. We know if they voted on it, and shared it out to social networks.”

Disqus said its metadata are used to create anonymous profiles against which brands could target ads, without sharing personally identifiable information. “We have the largest and deepest audience profiles on the Web,” Fleck said.

Another ad format for digital marketers.

Mechanical smartwatches, wait what? →

The Verge:

This doesn’t look real. And right now, it isn’t — but a startup named Kairos claims that it will be shipping the first versions of its stunning mechanical-digital hybrid smartwatch in December of this year. If that actually happens, it could dramatically close the gap between the two oft-opposed forces — tech and fashion — that are driving the market for wristwatches today.

It’s a very impressive concept in theory. It has everything expected from a smartwatch nowadays: push notifications for call, texts, emails, includes a fitness tracker, control music playback from your smartphone, remote control your phone’s camera, GPS for world time display, etc.

It’s a shame though that everything from the design of the product itself, to the video, the website, and so on, makes it look like a bulky gadget rather than a true fashion accessory.

The Verge reviews the Nexus 9 →

The Verge:

With the Nexus 9, Google is putting forth its best effort to beat or match the iPad. But unfortunately, the Nexus 9 doesn’t beat the iPad in anything. And in many places, it doesn’t even keep up.

On build quality:

Despite HTC’s manufacturing pedigree, there are many places where it feels like corners were cut on the Nexus 9. The power button and volume rockers feel low-rent and mushy and are too flush with the body. The plastic rear doesn’t hold a candle to the metal finishes Apple uses on the iPad, and there are flexes and loose panels on more than one of our review units. All of that would be excusable on a low-cost tablet like the Nexus 7, but the Nexus 9 costs as much or more than a competing iPad.

Not that easy to build a convincing iPad competitor at the same price, it seems.

What’s Behind the Great Podcast Renaissance? →

The New York Mag:

But as I talked to podcasters, they told me that the biggest reason for the podcast renaissance has nothing to do with the podcasts themselves, or the advertisers funding them.

It’s actually about cars.

The secret to radio’s success has always been the drive-time commuter. An estimated 44 percent of all radio listening takes place in the car, and that’s the way the radio industry likes it. Car-based listeners are captive, they tune in for long stretches at a time, and they’re valuable to advertisers. And drivers’ dedication to the AM/FM spectrum has made radio a remarkably stable medium — even in 2013, according to the Pew Research Center and Nielsen Audio, 91 percent of Americans over age 12 listened to the radio on a weekly basis.

Now, though, cars are going online. Both Google and Apple have rolled out connected-car platforms Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, respectively, and most new cars sold in the U.S. these days come with the ability to play smartphone audio over the car’s speakers, either through Bluetooth connectivity or through a USB or auxiliary plug. One industry group, GMSA, estimates that 50 percent of all cars sold in 2015 will be internet-connected, and 100 percent by 2025.

Love the podcast format. I can break 2-hour shows into smaller listening sessions and listen to them when I am out and about, everywhere. It has long replaced the traditional radio format for me.

Love the fact that producing a podcast is incredibly cheap nowadays. My favorite radio hosts are already podcasters.

Hopefully, I’ll start our old show or another one soon. :)

Astronaut Chris Hadfield took 45,000 photos from space—here are some of the best →

Stunning.

By the way, Hadfield explained how he is able to take long-exposure shots in a zero gravity environment. Hint : no tripod at all.