Apple

Did Apple Fix E-Book Prices for the Greater Good?

17 December 2014

From The New Yorker:

Had you listened to the lawyers presenting oral arguments to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit between ten o’clock and eleven o’clock on Monday morning, you might have assumed that someone was suing Amazon. Much of the discussion centered on whether Amazon had a monopoly on e-book sales a couple of years ago. At one point, a judge even suggested outright that Amazon could be described as a monopolist company that engaged in predatory pricing.

But the case before the court that day wasn’t about Amazon—not directly, at least. It originated in 2012, when the Department of Justice sued Apple and five book publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster) for allegedly conspiring to raise the prices of e-books in the run-up to the launch of the iPad, in 2010. Amazon, whose Kindle e-reader had a ninety-per-cent market share for e-books before the iPad’s introduction, had been buying them at the wholesale prices set by publishers, then reselling them at retail prices (typically $9.99 per book) that were often at or even below the original wholesale price. Amazon didn’t mind losing money on each sale, as long as the strategy helped sell Kindles and expand the e-book market. But publishers believed that the low retail price of e-books eroded the public’s perception of what books are worth. They also worried that the heavily discounted e-books were hurting hardcover sales, on which they depended for much of their revenue.

. . . .

So why the discussion now of whether Amazon was a monopolist before Apple came along? According to recent case law, price-fixing schemes designated as horizontal (that is, coördinated among competitors) violate antitrust law, no matter the parties’ intentions or the effects on the market. But “vertical” price-fixing (between a retailer and a manufacturer) may not be a violation, depending on such factors as the companies’ motives and the outcomes of their actions.

Last year, a federal judge named Denise Cote found that Apple had, in fact, collaborated in a horizontal price-fixing scheme, not that it had orchestrated a vertical one. Cote noted that Apple executives kept the publishers informed about what other publishers were up to; she also pointed out that Apple made clear to the publishers that it was important for as many of them as possible sign on to the proposed deal. Both of these activities, among others, Cote argued, showed that the company had facilitated horizontal price-fixing.

. . . .

On Monday, comments from the appellate judges in New York—especially Judge Dennis Jacobs—suggested that they might be more receptive than Cote to Apple’s line of reasoning. According to Agence France-Presse, Jacobs said, “What we’re talking about is a new entrant who is breaking the hold of a market by a monopolist who is maintaining its hold by what is arguably predatory pricing.”

. . . .

According to the Associated Press, when one of the judges, Raymond J. Lohier, Jr., asked a lawyer for the Justice Department how Apple and the publishers “could have broken Amazon’s monopoly of the e-book market without violating antitrust laws,” The lawyer noted that Apple could have let the competition among companies play out naturally without pursuing explicit strategies to push prices higher—or it could have sued, or complained to the Justice Department and to federal regulatory authorities. First told me, “My view of this has always been that vigilante justice is not appropriate—it was not even appropriate in the Wild West.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

PG suggests that, even if Amazon was abusing its position in the ebook world (not a certain thing by a long shot because it was trying to push prices down, a good thing for consumers), the solution to monopoly power is not to create another monopoly that abuses its power – by price-fixing, which is what the Price-Fix Six did.

In 1985, Steve Jobs predicted the internet would inspire everyone to buy computers

16 December 2014

From The Verge:

Longform republished a Playboy interview with Steve Jobs from 1985. Nearly 30,000 words long, the conversation is full of interesting ideas and anecdotes. The interview spans the tech of the time. At one point, while discussing the potential of computers, Jobs compares Pong quite favorably to the work of Aristotle. In another chunk of the interview, Jobs comments on the future of home computing, predicting the average person would spend a considerable amount of cash on a personal computer so they could connect to a national network — a little different than the internet of today.

Playboy: What will change?

Jobs: The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people-as remarkable as the telephone.

Playboy: Specifically, what kind of breakthrough are you talking about?

Jobs: I can only begin to speculate. We see that a lot in our industry: You don’t know exactly what’s going to result, but you know it’s something very big and very good.

Playboy: Then for now, aren’t you asking home-computer buyers to invest $3000 in what is essentially an act of faith?

Jobs: In the future, it won’t be an act of faith. The hard part of what we’re up against now is that people ask you about specifics and you can’t tell them. A hundred years ago, if somebody had asked Alexander Graham Bell, “What are you going to be able to do with a telephone?” he wouldn’t have been able to tell him the ways the telephone would affect the world. He didn’t know that people would use the telephone to call up and find out what movies were playing that night or to order some groceries or call a relative on the other side of the globe. But remember that first the public telegraph was inaugurated, in 1844. It was an amazing breakthrough in communications. You could actually send messages from New York to San Francisco in an afternoon. People talked about putting a telegraph on every desk in America to improve productivity. But it wouldn’t have worked. It required that people learn this whole sequence of strange incantations, Morse code, dots and dashes, to use the telegraph. It took about 40 hours to learn. The majority of people would never learn how to use it. So, fortunately, in the 1870s, Bell filed the patents for the telephone. It performed basically the same function as the telegraph, but people already knew how to use it. Also, the neatest thing about it was that besides allowing you to communicate with just words, it allowed you to sing.

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Can Apple Win Its E-book Appeal?

15 December 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

On Monday, December 15, Apple will finally get their crack at overturning its 2013 e-book price-fixing judgment, with oral arguments scheduled before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. What are the core arguments that will be pressed before the Second Circuit? What is at stake? And, can Apple succeed in overturning the judgment against them? Here is a short primer:

. . . .

Monday’s hearing is the main event: this is Apple’s appeal of Judge Denise Cote’s 2013 liability finding, in which the company was found to have conspired with five major publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster) to artificially inflate e-book prices.

The 2012 suit alleged that five of the then Big Six publishers, threatened by Amazon’s $9.99 e-book prices,colluded with Apple to simultaneously move the industry to an “agency” model in which the publishers would take control of consumer e-book pricing in conjunction with the 2010 launch of the iPad and the iBookstore.

The five Publisher Defendants settled the charges against them and avoided trial. They admitted no wrongdoing, butrefunded $166 million to e-book consumers, and submitted to two years of Department of Justice sanctions. Apple, however, fought the charges, and, on July 10, 2013, after a two-week trial, Cote found Apple had violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

. . . .

In Apple’s version of events, the company did “nothing more” than “[hear] out” the publishers’ complaints about Amazon and convey its “openness to pricing above $9.99.” Nothing in the evidence, they stress, definitively shows otherwise.

Did Apple exploit the publishers’ desire to blunt Amazon’s pricing? Sure—but at no time, Apple attorneys insist, did Apple knowingly join a conspiracy—it was simply trying to enter the e-book market under “rational” business terms. And its entry into the e-book market ultimately had “pro-competitive” effects, helping to dent Amazon’s 90% share of the e-book market.

“That Apple used the leverage created by market dynamics and the publishers’ well-publicized antipathy toward Amazon to enter the market is quintessential competition,” Apple argued in a July appeal brief, “not conspiracy.”

. . . .

Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice counter that Apple did considerably more than “hear out” the publishers—and that Judge Cote got the case exactly right. In the DoJ’s appeal filing, U.S attorneys point out that the evidence against Apple was “overwhelming.” And, despite Apple’s dispute over “isolated pieces of evidence,” the judge “articulated the proper standard, and correctly applied it.”

U.S. attorneys claim they only needed to show there was “sufficient evidence” to enable “a reasonable fact finder to infer that the conspiratorial explanation is more likely than not.” And the volumes of evidence presented in the case, they say, shows that the alleged conspiracy was “more than merely plausible,” but made perfect economic sense: Apple wanted a retail platform for e-books on its new device, the iPad, but did not want to compete with Amazon on price. And the publishers wanted to end Amazon’s low prices, which they believed “devalued” their product.

. . . .

Lawyers say it will be an uphill battle for Apple. Look at it this way: to win, Apple must lead the Second Circuit to a completely opposite finding than the slam-dunk verdict Judge Cote came to, based on the same evidence, and a single, brief oral argument (each side is allotted just 20 minutes).

Apple’s appeal is also somewhat unusual in that it leans surprisingly hard on Cote’s reading of the evidence. Appeals generally hinge on legal and procedural errors. But in this case, Apple claims that Cote so abused her discretion that her conclusions are reviewable for “clear error.”Cleveland State University law professor Christopher Sagers, who has followed the case closely, told PW it is “definitely not impossible” that Apple could win. But, in his opinion, Cote’s reading of the evidence is sound, and some key parts of Apple’s arguments, because they revolve around findings of fact, could be deemed unreviewable.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG thinks Apple will lose its appeal.

However, PG also believes that the outcome of the appeal is irrelevant to the ebook world. Apple has failed as a savior of Big Publishing and high prices for ebooks. In a nutshell, Apple can’t compete with Amazon in selling ebooks.

At the time the Price-Fix Six hatched its little plot, Apple was going to introduce the iPad and everyone thought it would dominate the ebook world. Although the iPad started off as the only game in town, it’s not any more. Gartner estimated that Android tablets represented 62% of tablet sales in 2013 while iPad sales were 36% of the tablet market.

Theoretically, Apple could remove Amazon apps from the iTunes store, but doing so would upset iPad owners and accelerate the market decline of the iPad.

So, if the Court of Appeals confirms that Apple illegally fixed prices or decides it didn’t makes no difference to anyone but Apple. Amazon is the king of ebook sales and is likely to continue that role, at least in the near-term future.

Apple, E-Books and the Amazon Juggernaut

15 December 2014

From a law school dean via re/code:

Being sued by the government under the antitrust laws has historically been a rite of passage for great American companies like Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, DuPont, IBM, AT&T, Microsoft, Intel and Google. Apple is the latest to be inducted into this rarified company. In a 2012 lawsuit, the Justice Department alleged that the Cupertino company conspired with seven book publishers to fix e-book prices. After being found liable by the federal district court in Manhattan in July of 2013, Apple is preparing to argue its case in the court of appeals today, Dec. 15.

Apple should be feeling good about its chances. Although the government’s case has superficial appeal, the record suggests that Apple’s actions may have benefited rather than harmed the welfare of e-book customers.

. . . .

First, although the point of a price-fixing conspiracy is generally to increase prices, there is compelling evidence that the shift from a wholesale to an agency model resulted in a decrease in the average prices of e-books. While the prices of premium books that Amazon had previously been selling below cost increased, Apple and B&N’s entry facilitated the vast expansion of the e-book market, including the availability of many new low-cost books. The net effect for consumers was an expansion of choice and variety at lower average prices.

Second, it would be misguided to judge the competitive effects of Apple’s behavior solely based on e-book prices. Amazon was strategically using low, and arguably anticompetitive, e-book prices to entrench the entire Kindle ecosystem. Market entry by new competitive ecosystems like the iPad/iBookstore required disruption of Amazon’s prevailing business model. Consumers undoubtedly benefited immensely from the introduction of the Nook and iPad and their associated online bookstores.

Link to the rest at re/code and thanks to Chris for the tip.

Can Apple clear its name in the ebooks drama?

3 December 2014

From Fortune:

When Apple goes before a federal appeals court on Dec. 15, trying to overturn the ebooks price-fixing judgment the Justice Department won against it in July 2013, there will be an elephant in the room.

That would be Amazon, the much admired and greatly feared ­discounter, which is not a party in the case. Yet the unposed question hovering over the proceedings will be: Did the regulators target the right bully?

. . . .

The case stems from events that occurred five years ago, when Apple was preparing to launch its first iPad. Apple’s negotiator extraordinaire, Eddy Cue, signed up five of the then six major publishing houses to start selling ebooks through what it would call the iBooks Store.

. . . .

Apple was breaking into a market then dominated by Amazon, which had an 80% to 90% market share—monopoly power in almost anyone’s book. The iPad’s new color touchpad e-reader would compete with Amazon’s Kindle 2, a black-and-white, text-only, single-use device that advanced pages with a button. So far so good.

But when the curtain rose on the iBooks Store on April 3, 2010, so did prices industrywide for most new-release ebooks, to the tune of about 17%.

That dramatic price rise—and a letter Amazon wrote to regulators two months earlier—led the Justice Department and 33 state attorneys general to sue Apple and five publishing houses for horizontal price-fixing in violation of the ­Sherman Act. In July 2013, after a three-week trial, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote of Manhattan ruled against Apple. (The publishers settled before trial.)

This is the stain on its reputation that Apple hopes the appeals court will wash away. The man at the center of the dispute, Apple’s Cue, 50, has agreed, in a Fortune exclusive, to grant his first press interview on the subject. An Apple lifer since he was 24, Cue now oversees iCloud, Siri, and all the company’s online stores. It was Cue who conducted the negotiations that led to the launch of the iTunes store in 2003, the App Store in 2008, and Apple’s new digital-­payment product, Apple Pay, in October. And it was he who negotiated Apple’s entry into the ebooks market in 2010.

“Is it a fact that certain book prices went up?” asks Cue. “Yes. If you want to convict us on that, then we’re guilty. I knew some prices were going to go up, but hell, the whole world knew it, because that’s what the publishers were saying: ‘We want to get retailers to raise prices, and if we’re not able to, we’re not going to make the books available digitally.’ At the same time, other prices went down too, because now there was competition in the market.”

. . . .

“We feel we have to fight for the truth,” says Cue. “Luckily, Tim feels exactly like I do,” he continues, referring to Apple CEO Tim Cook, “which is: You have to fight for your principles no matter what. Because it’s just not right.”

It’s a risky choice, since a loss would only set the stain. “Apple has an uphill battle,” says Herbert Hovenkamp, a law professor at the University of Iowa and co-author of a 22-volume antitrust treatise. “There was lots of evidence in the record, the judge looked at it, and she agreed with the government. Fact-findings get reviewed under a deferential standard. You pretty much have to accept them.” (It was a bench trial, meaning that Judge Cote herself, not a jury, was the fact-finder.)

Still, the issues are perplexing, and Apple has a fighting shot. Did prices go up because of price-fixing? Or did they go up, rather, because once Apple entered the market, the publishers finally had an alternative to selling through Amazon on whatever terms it demanded?

. . . .

In truth, though, anyone complaining about Amazon has a tough row to hoe. Since the 1970s a broad consensus has emerged that the only proper purpose of the antitrust laws is to protect consumers, and low prices are presumed to be the consumer’s highest priority. Under that regimen, gigantic discounters like Amazon seem to be golden.

. . . .

In November 2009, Apple was finalizing its top-secret iPad, which was to be unveiled in January. “I remember taking it home to play with,” Cue recalls, “and it was clear to me it would make a great ebook reader.” So he suggested to CEO Steve Jobs that Apple open an ebook store along the lines of iTunes. “He said, ‘I’m not going to delay the product for this,’ ” Cue recounts, “ ‘but I’ll let you go see what you can get done.’ ”

Cue knew little about the industry and had never met any of the publisher CEOs. His team set up six meetings for him in New York—one with each CEO of a Big Six ­publisher—on Dec. 15 and 16. The publishers were Hachette, Harper­Collins, Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Random House. Cue never met with more than one publisher at a time. (Penguin and Random House merged in July 2013.)

A few days before the first meeting, Cue recalls, he read a newspaper article about the “industry being in turmoil, Amazon selling books below cost, and the publishers saying that if the practice doesn’t stop, they’re going to stop selling new releases digitally. I thought, Oh, these are going to be more interesting meetings than I thought.”

. . . .

The publishers sold their digital works to Amazon on the same wholesale model they used for “ink on paper.” They were aghast, however, when Amazon started selling nearly every digital version of a new release or New York Times bestseller—which typically sold in hardback for $26 to $35—for just $9.99. The practice cannibalized hardback sales and devalued authors’ intellectual property, the publishers protested. Over time, they feared, Amazon would use its market power to force down wholesale prices, slashing the funds available for author advances.

From Amazon’s perspective, the price simply gained converts to a new way of reading, sold Kindles, and served the purpose of any loss leader: getting people to the store.

Though publishers raised wholesale prices, Amazon held fast. By 2009 it was absorbing $2, $5, and even $7 losses on the sale of nearly every copy of those key titles.

In their clubby world the publisher CEOs naively hobnobbed with abandon. Four times between September 2008 and September 2009, at least five of them supped together without lawyers present. Three of those dinners were in a private room at Picholine, a fine French restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Though the participants gave innocuous reasons for the gatherings, the government said they “offered publisher defendants opportunities to discuss how they could work collectively in pursuit of higher retail e-book prices.”

. . . .

There and elsewhere some publisher CEOs unquestionably shared sensitive business information, including plans about “windowing.” Windowing was one of the few weapons the publishers had against Amazon. It meant withholding the release of an ebook until several months after the hardback release—the way paperbacks are withheld. None of the publishers wanted to do that because they’d lose the benefit of the buzz surrounding a new release, and the practice invited piracy. But in early 2009 two publishers warned Amazon that they might resort to windowing certain blockbuster titles.

. . . .

So the publishers faced a quandary. If a company started windowing, it risked retaliation from Amazon. But if publishers sought safety in numbers, coordinating their windowing, they would be colluding in violation of the Sherman Act.

In August, Hachette’s then CEO, David Young, sent an email that evinced collusion. “Completely confidentially,” he wrote the CEO of Hachette’s French parent, “[Simon & Schuster CEO] Carolyn [Reidy] has told me that they are delaying the new Stephen King … I think it would be prudent for you to double delete this from your email files when you return to your office.”

. . . .

That a competitor follows another’s lead is not collusion. If one airline raises its fare on a route, for instance, and every other carrier matches that fare within minutes, that’s fine, as long as they didn’t agree to do it beforehand.

In this case, though, given the Picholine dinners and the “double delete” email, Judge Cote inferred that the ­publishers had “synchronized their windowing strategies.” But she went further: She found that Cue—who at this point had still never spoken to a single publisher—­somehow knew they were colluding. “Before Apple even met with the first publisher-defendant in mid-December,” she wrote, “it knew that [they] were already acting collectively to place pressure on Amazon to abandon its pricing strategy.” She cited only the fact that newspapers had reported each windowing announcement. (Cue says he never heard of the Picholine dinners until after the government sued in April 2012.)

. . . .

But there was one more term. It read: “All resellers of new titles need to be in agency model.” The clause addressed the fact that if Apple was using agency (with publishers setting prices) while Amazon was using the wholesale model (with Amazon setting prices at $9.99), Apple’s prices wouldn’t be competitive. Most antitrust lawyers would say that this term was illegal, however, because Apple can’t tell its suppliers how to deal with Apple’s competitors.

. . . .

So when Cue sent out the actual draft contracts, he replaced that term with a “most favored nation” clause, or MFN. It gave Apple the right to match the price at which any new-release ebook was being sold by another retailer. (Cote acknowledged that MFNs are ordinarily legal.)

With the MFN, publishers could keep their wholesale model with Amazon, if they wanted. If they did, though, and Amazon priced a book at $9.99, Apple could sell that book at $9.99 too. In that case, of course, the publisher would make only 70% of $9.99 from Apple—about $7—instead of the $12 or $15 wholesale price it was used to getting for that book from Amazon. That would be the worst of both worlds for the publisher: It would still be stuck with the $9.99 price point, and it would be making less money too.

. . . .

Negotiations continued down to the wire; the last publisher inked its deal only the day before Jobs unveiled the iPad at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Arts Center. (Random House didn’t sign till a year later, so it wasn’t named in the government’s suit.)

At the launch Jobs showed how he could download a book from the iBooks Store. The volume chosen was priced at $14.99. Afterward, then Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg asked Jobs in a videotaped exchange: Why would someone buy for $14.99 a book that’s available on Amazon for $9.99?

“That won’t be the case,” Jobs responded. “The prices will be the same.”

To the government, that was a confession to price-fixing. But it was also just a description of how the MFN worked. If Amazon was still selling the book at $9.99, then the iBooks Store could sell it at that price too.

Link to the rest at Fortune and thanks to Juli for the tip.

Apple faces trial in decade-old iTunes DRM lawsuit

2 December 2014

From ITWorld:

The past is coming back to haunt Apple, as a nearly 10-year-old class-action antitrust lawsuit accusing the company of trying to monopolize online music distribution is headed to trial.

The Apple iPod iTunes antitrust litigation accuses Apple of violating U.S. and California antitrust law by restricting music purchased on iTunes from being played on devices other than iPods and by not allowing iPods to play music purchased on other digital music services.

. . . .

The original January 2005 complaint in the case references a music distribution industry that no longer exists nearly a decade later. The document refers to iTunes competitors Napster, Buy.com, Music Rebellion and Audio Lunch Box, along with digital music players from Gateway, Epson, RCA and e.Digital.

The opening paragraphs of the complaint talk about defunct CD seller Tower Records.

“It would be egregious and unlawful for a major retailer such as Tower Records, for example, to require that all music CDs purchased by consumers at Tower Records be played only with CD players purchased at Tower Records,” the complaint said. “Yet, this is precisely what Apple has done.”

Apple has monopoly market power, lawyers for plaintiff Thomas Slattery wrote. “Apple has rigged the hardware and software in its iPod such that the device will not directly play any music files originating from online music stores other than Apple’s iTunes music store,” they wrote.

Link to the rest at ITWorld and thanks to BS for the tip.

Apple $450 million e-book settlement gets final court approval

22 November 2014

From Reuters:

A U.S. judge on Friday gave final approval to Apple Inc’s agreement to pay $450 million to resolve claims it harmed consumers by conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices.

During a hearing in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote approved what she called a “highly unusual” accord. It calls for Apple to pay $400 million to as many as 23 million consumers if the company is unsuccessful in appealing a ruling that found it liable for antitrust violations.

The $400 million comes on top of earlier settlements with five publishers in the case, which provided $166 million for e-book purchasers.

. . . .

Apple agreed to the settlement in June, ahead of a damages trial set for two months later in which attorneys general in 33 states and territories and lawyers for a class of consumers were expected to seek up to $840 million.

Link to the rest at Reuters

Apple updates iBooks Author, adds in support for importing ePub and InDesign files

20 October 2014

From Talking New Media:

he eBook publishing platform from Apple, iBooks Author, received an update.

. . . .

The update, which brings the program up to version 2.2, fails to introduce iPhone support, the one thing publishers have been asking for from the beginning. But there are a number of interesting new features.

The update for iBA now allows designers to import ePub files. It also allows for the importation of Adobe InDesign IDML files, which may prove a big help for seasoned designers expert at Adobe’s publishing design program.

. . . .

Maybe the biggest improvement, and one often requested from publishers, is the addition of an auto-pplay function for media such as video, Keynote presentations and other HTML widgets. Readers will probably start to see pages come to live at open almost immediately – and, hopefully, designers won’t over use this feature to drive readers crazy with videos that play at open and really shouldn’t.

. . . .

The two big improvements eBook publishers would love to see are support for the iPhone, especially now that the iPhone displays are getting bigger, and cross-platform support. One understand why Apple is hesitant to support other platforms, but why it fails to support the iPhone is a mystery. It seems that one, simple solution, might be to simply add iPhone templates.

Link to the rest at Talking New Media

To Siri, With Love

19 October 2014

Nothing to do with books, but interesting:

From The New York Times:

Just how bad a mother am I? I wondered, as I watched my 13-year-old son deep in conversation with Siri. Gus has autism, and Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant” on the iPhone, is currently his B.F.F. Obsessed with weather formations, Gus had spent the hour parsing the difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms — an hour in which, thank God, I didn’t have to discuss them. After a while I heard this:

Gus: “You’re a really nice computer.”

Siri: “It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Gus: “You are always asking if you can help me. Is there anything you want?”

Siri: “Thank you, but I have very few wants.”

Gus: “O.K.! Well, good night!”

Siri: “Ah, it’s 5:06 p.m.”

Gus: “Oh sorry, I mean, goodbye.”

Siri: “See you later!”

That Siri. She doesn’t let my communications-impaired son get away with anything. Indeed, many of us wanted an imaginary friend, and now we have one. Only she’s not entirely imaginary.

This is a love letter to a machine.

. . . .

 In a world where the commonly held wisdom is that technology isolates us, it’s worth considering another side of the story.

It all began simply enough. I’d just read one of those ubiquitous Internet lists called “21 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do.” One of them was this: I could ask Siri, “What planes are above me right now?” and Siri would bark back, “Checking my sources.” Almost instantly there was a list of actual flights — numbers, altitudes, angles — above my head.

I happened to be doing this when Gus was nearby. “Why would anyone need to know what planes are flying above your head?” I muttered. Gus replied without looking up: “So you know who you’re waving at, Mommy.”

Gus had never noticed Siri before, but when he discovered there was someone who would not just find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather) but actually semi-discuss these subjects tirelessly, he was hooked. And I was grateful. Now, when my head was about to explode if I had to have another conversation about the chance of tornadoes in Kansas City, Mo., I could reply brightly: “Hey! Why don’t you ask Siri?”

. . . .

[L]ike many autistic people I know, Gus feels that inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration. I realized this when he was 8, and I got him an iPod for his birthday. He listened to it only at home, with one exception. It always came with us on our visits to the Apple Store. Finally, I asked why. “So it can visit its friends,” he said.

So how much more worthy of his care and affection is Siri, with her soothing voice, puckish humor and capacity for talking about whatever Gus’s current obsession is for hour after hour after bleeding hour?

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Tom for the tip.

Samsung and Amazon Tied for Second Place in Tablet Market as Apple’s Shares Fall

15 October 2014

From MarketWatch:

In advance of Apple’s event this week, Parks Associates announced new research today showing Amazon and Samsung are locked in a tight race for second place behind Apple in the tablet market, which overall shows signs of cooling even as adoption remains high.

. . . .

“Over 60% of U.S. broadband households now have a tablet, and 52% own both a smartphone and a tablet, up from 25% in 2011,” said Tejas Mehta, research analyst, Parks Associates. “Tablet sales in recent quarters have been hampered by a longer replacement cycle compared to smartphones’, a lack of new features, and the popularity of phablets, which negatively affects sales of smaller-sized tablets.”

Parks Associates analysts noted that these findings point to more price-based competition and potentially less revenue in the tablet market if tablet brands fail to innovate.

Link to the rest at MarketWatch

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