Lack of innovation takes a bite from the Apple – Gadget

Lack of innovation takes a bite from the Apple

Apple’s valuation dropping below $1 trillion immediately after updating its computer and tablet ranges shows how hard it is for the brand to please investors, writes BRYAN TURNER.

Apple released its latest computers and tablets last week, almost simultaneously with its share price falling by 7% as the market reacted to its latest results. The fall came in response to Apple’s flat smartphone sales figures after the latest iPhone release.

This suggests that Apple is not able to grow sales due to low innovation levels and resultant low consumer motivation to buy the latest devices. Despite this, the company’s computer upgrades have been welcomed by those who use the previous generations.

The new MacBook Air is the first update to the computer in almost four years. The latest edition has received a few adjustments from the previous generation.

The MacBook Retina Display quadruples the number of pixels, compared to the previous generation, while the display size has been bumped up from 13 to 13.3 inches, due to the aluminium bezel being replaced with a thinner black glass bezel, similar to the rest of the MacBook line.

A TouchID fingerprint sensor and butterfly keyboard keep the MacBook Air in line with the rest of the MacBook Pro line. Type-C ports replace most other ports, including the MagSafe charging port and Thunderbolt 2 ports.

The new Mac mini also received its first update in almost four years, introducing major hardware upgrades.

With quad- or 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core CPUs, the Mac mini could be anything from an affordable office Mac to a powerful video rendering computer. A T2 chip transcodes – live conversion – HEVC video up to 30 times faster than if they were transcoded on a typical mid-range CPU.

Connectivity is the name of the game with the new Mac mini. From left to right, it sports a 10Gbit Ethernet port, 4 USB Type-C ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, 2 standard USB 3 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The latest iPad Pro gets a new screen, maximising design, which now resembles the latest iPhone.

The TouchID home button has been removed to make room for more screen real estate, and FaceID has been added as the facial recognition method. Wireless charging is included within the edge of the iPad to charge the new Apple Pencil by magnetic attachment. A new A12X processor makes the new iPad Pro around 2 times faster than the previous generation.

Overall, under the hood of these devices, Apple seems to be driving innovation more than over the past years. However, this does not seem to be enough to satisfy investors looking for a big bang.

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Is it goodbye, private car?

Could cars be the next part of everyday life to be transformed from a physical product into an on-demand service? Some technologists and economists predict that the privately-owned car will go the way of the horse and buggy within in a decade, writes ALEX THOMSON, co-founder at Naked, an AI-based car insurance business.

Over the past decade or so, the technology industry has transformed many things we used to buy as physical products into digital services we subscribe to or access on a pay-per-use basis. Think about how we have moved from buying CDs towards paying a monthly subscription to use Spotify, or the shift from DVDs to Netflix.

Could cars be the next part of everyday life to be transformed from a physical product into an on-demand service? Some technologists and economists predict that the privately-owned car will go the way of the horse and buggy within in a decade. In their view, only motor enthusiasts and the rich will one day own personal cars, which they will use for leisure rather than transportation.

One study in the US, for example, forecasts that private car ownership will fall by as much 80% by 2030 and that using electric ride-shares will be four to 10 times cheaper than buying a new car by 2021. The researchers foresee a world where communal, autonomous (self-driving) electric cars owned by cities or ride-sharing companies offer a safe, efficient and flexible personal transportation system.

We’re already at the beginning of this revolution, with ride-hailing services like Uber and Taxify already potentially cheaper for some people than owning a car. Car sharing services such as Zipcar – which enables you to subscribe by the month and then hire a car by the hour – and Turo – an Airbnb-like service that matches car owners with car renters – have also started to pop up around the world. crunched the basic numbers and found using Uber could be more cost-effective on a per-kilometre basis for people in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban who travel less than 50 kilometres a day. The reason for this is that you pay only for the distance you travel, without the costs of car ownership such as maintenance, insurance, financing, licences and depreciation.

One also needs to add in the lifestyle costs. How much of your time do you spend stuck in traffic or looking for parking? What if you could be making calls and working on your computer during your commute instead of sitting at the wheel?

The end of the parking lot?

The authors of the US study I cited earlier believe that the effect of shared ride-hailing will completely change how cities work in the years to come. Not only will it be more efficient to increase the utilisation of vehicles by sharing them, it will also reduce the amount of space we currently use for parking in cities where real-estate is expensive and in short supply.

What’s more, autonomous vehicles should be safer since their software will not make mistakes, drive recklessly or get behind the wheel after a beer too many after a long lunch on Friday. In theory, a shift to shared, driverless cars should also improve traffic flow by reducing the stop-start rhythm of human driving.

As great as that all sounds, shared, driverless vehicles are most likely further in the future than the more optimistic forecasts suggest. While the technology is advancing fast, it may take longer to change human behaviour. For many of us in the middle classes, a car is more than a way to get from point A to point B. It is also a status symbol, a fashion statement and an emblem of personal freedom.

This is why car ownership remains stubbornly high even in European and Asian cities with cheap, reliable public transport and bans on, or congestion charges for, private cars in their centres. The transition will be even slower in a country like South Africa. The taxi industry, unions and government will resist the job losses; autonomous vehicles are probably also not ready to navigate the unpredictable drivers of Jozi’s mean streets.

Transforming car ownership

Still, the rise of on-demand technology is already affecting many aspects of the car ownership experience. Our data at Naked indicates that a surprisingly small percentage – just over 21% – of our customers opt for car hire as part of their insurance cover. We suspect the reason for this is that many of our customers choose to save on their premiums knowing that they can Uber for a while if something happens to their car.

Car insurance itself is also turning into an on-demand service, powered by artificial intelligence and algorithms, just like ride-hailing services. For example, Naked’s CoverPause allows customers to switch their accident cover off when they are not using their vehicle for a while.

You can save around half of your insurance premium on the days that you are not driving. Simply press one button on the app to downgrade your cover. If you want to drive again, you can switch back to full cover with one click. In future, we can also expect to see car insurance pricing models, such as paying for each kilometre you drive, to become more common.

So, while car ownership and car insurance are likely to be a part of your life for some years to come, connected technology will change your experience in remarkable ways. Today, buying and switching insurance from your phone is as quick and easy as registering for Uber and hailing your first ride.

Why we get scammed

Con artists have been plying their trade since time immemorial, but the internet opened the floodgates to a whole new level of swindling. It has allowed fraudsters to take aim at an endless number of victims and at the range of victims that they never could have reached before.

And with the wide spectrum of our personal information accessed via the internet, everything falls into the scammer’s lap even more easily, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

In one sense, however, old is still gold. The success of an online con, including phishing (the most pervasive of such scams), hinges largely on human psychology. More precisely, it all tends to boil down to how well the con artist can exploit some of the very things that make us human. And those haven’t undergone much change in, well, quite a while.

Instead of crafting special code and laboriously overcoming technical defences, “hacking the human” is generally recognised as the easiest way to steal personal data or money online.

Despite – or perhaps thanks to – some obvious limitations in terms of physical propinquity when it comes to online space, romance scammers can build rapport with victims nearly at (ill) will. As with a genuine online relationship, it won’t probably be love at first sight and the grooming of the “mark” may take quite some time. However, once the “romance” finally blossoms, it’s easy enough to take things to the next level – to part the beguiled from their money.

Several forces shape, or contribute to, a potential victim’s susceptibility to this fraud. For one thing, we flock to dating sites in search of romantic relationships, which may leave us somewhat predisposed to building attachments with other people and to taking for granted the good faith of the prospective partner. Of course, scammers also prey on users of social media where social interaction is often the reason to be there in the first place.

The sense of a perceived bond also leads to some degree of dependence, as does the need for approval from our (apparent) love interest. And when the “soulmate” tugs at our heartstrings with an urgent request to help foot the treatment bill for their child, who suddenly turns out to be hooked up to hospital monitors, is also where our empathy and sympathy really kick in.

Other schemes aim to appeal to our desire for something less noble than everlasting love. All of us have probably been “blessed” with an email that promised a fortune in exchange for what is typically an upfront fee that, when you think about it, seems truly miniscule compared to the “riches” awaiting you. It could take any number of forms, such as a Nigerian prince scam or a lottery scam. However, all of them ultimately seek to take advantage of our desire for enrichment.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably stopped to think at least once about what all those zeroes in the promised money could buy. Arguably, it may not always be easy to think straight when faced with the opportunity to, once and for all, escape the daily schlep. This is doubly true when the offer adds other ingredients to the mix. It will be uniqueness (you, not your neighbour or mother-in-law, received the offer); scarcity (the “supply” is limited); and urgency (the time to act is, well, yesterday).

And, perhaps just as importantly: what if – despite all the red flags urging you to run the other way – the opportunity is genuine, as that nagging feeling tells you?

Complicating things further, if you do succumb, it’s not over for you – and certainly not for the scammer. Instead, you’re likely to face more requests for additional and ever higher “processing fees”, bribes, and so on. You may well find the pleas increasingly difficult to resist, for which you can blame your hardwired reluctance to admit to a bad decision and give up hope, or a cognitive bias known as sunk-cost fallacy. Or, like a hapless gambler, you will continue to “invest” money to recoup your losses. But the house always wins.

The need to “act now or all hell will break loose” is a staple in phishing campaigns, which aim to trick us into divulging login credentials, and in other scams tricking us into installing malware. Knowing that rushing you into acting immediately is likely to cloud your judgment, fraudsters go all out in their attempts to invoke a false sense of urgency.

It’s only natural that we feel compelled to act swiftly: we don’t want anybody to mess with our bank or email accounts, which is exactly what the “alert” or “notification” is likely to be about. The sense of apprehension can be enough to distract us from the warning signs about something being amiss that might otherwise not escape our attention.

We’re mostly conditioned to obey authorities, and it is this respect for, and perceptions of, authority that phishers turn against us in their attacks. They let the presence of authority cues and our adherence to social norms do the heavy lifting for them.

By impersonating police, the taxman or another trusted authority or entity such as a bank, online payments provider or email service provider, the phishers will try to instruct us to act on pain of facing some unwanted, and usually dire, consequences. Like the sense of immediacy, when we’re gripped by fear or panic, our ability to think critically may give way to impulsive actions.

While this (over)confidence can be helpful in many situations, it can also skew the perceptions of our own strengths and weaknesses, leaving us vulnerable in the “knowledge” that “it cannot happen to me”. Ultimately, it may also help explain why some people fall for phishing campaigns, and why they do so repeatedly. Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report recently claimed that “the more phishing emails someone has clicked, the more they are likely to click in the future”.