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Echo Echoing

(First published on 5/9/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter — more)

Behold: the new Amazon Echo Show — aka: an Echo with a screen. Even if we’ve seen similar things before — I too had a Chumby back in the day — this looks pretty compelling. And it reminds me of something I read last week.

Here’s Apple SVP Phil Schiller talking to Gadgets 360:

Gadgets 360: Personally, what are your thoughts on devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo?

Phill Schiller: Well, I won’t talk to either one specifically, [I] don’t want to. My mother used to have a saying that if you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all. So, instead, let’s abstract the conversation just briefly to some of the general concepts and talk about those, because it’s really interesting.

Just an absurd and asinine thing to say. He has nothing nice to say about the other devices? Nothing?! Even if the current crop of devices aren’t perfect — and I don’t think anyone would argue that they are — it’s foolish not to acknowledge their place in the market right now. Sure, Apple isn’t playing directly in the space (yet), but even compared to Siri, these things are far more compelling.

Moving on:

So there’s many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn’t mean you’d never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don’t think suits many situations. For example if I’m looking for directions and I’m using Maps, Siri can tell me those directions by voice and that’s really convenient but it’s even better if I can see that map, and I can see what turns are coming up, and I can see where there is congestion, I understand better my route, and what I’m going to do.

Okay, so this is exactly what Amazon just released today. Ahead of whatever Apple is planning to release. The consensus has long been that Apple doesn’t care about doing something first, they care about doing something right. Per Schiller’s comments above, the Echo Show is clearly what Apple views to be the right approach. So will Apple be able to make a better version of it?

Unknowable right now, of course. But given the state of Siri versus the other assistants, I’m skeptical. Yes, I’m skeptical of Apple. And Schiller’s goofy, aloof snipes certainly don’t help.

5ish Links

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Akrales 170424  1643 0023.0

Dan Seifert on the latest BlackBerry — yes, they’re still around, though the hardware is now outsourced (TCL) — phone:

Getting shit done is really the entire ethos of the new KeyOne, and arguably, the many BlackBerry devices that preceded it. The KeyOne is a phone for a very specific person, one that longs for the days when the BlackBerry Bold was the most important device in the office and the majority of business communications happened over email. It’s not the best choice for watching hours of YouTube videos, sending thousands of Snaps, or reading novel-length ebooks (though it can technically do all of those things). It is for sending email. Lots of email.

Great battery life too. A decent camera (great compared to the last BlackBerry devices). Fingerprint scanner. Works with Google, Twitter, Facebook, Slack, etc.

This actually seems like a smart play. Never understood why BlackBerry (RIM) itself didn’t do this when it was still making phones. I mean, I know why they didn’t. But this feels like the type of winning product they should have done — it’s just winning a much smaller market than the broader smartphone market. But I still know a number of people (mainly lawyers or DC folks) who hoard the old devices. Clearly there’s something there…

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1*d2qi2cewdxqa6wv80 judw

Steven Sinofsky, a long-time exec at Microsoft, now at Andreessen Horowitz:

At the same time, the manager thinks “this is exactly what I need to do and I need to get to the bottom of this”. In particular, managers often think they have some insight or observation that comes from their unique vantage point looking across the team (or multiple managers) or some experience they have that others don’t (“just got back from talking to customers” is a super common one).

From this moment on the manager is creating a culture that treats the team like a staff function there to support the manager. Prior to kicking off this cycle everyone was doing some work. Now they are figuring out what the manager wants and doing a whole new type of work.


Can I answer this myself? Managers, as busy as they are, should always work to find the answers themselves first and foremost. Learn to use the tools and use them. Even then, be prepared to ask the expert if this data analysis is correct and why not. Again, focusing on learning and discovery together.

All seems like great advice. The job of a manager is to manage only in so far that it actually leads to getting stuff done. This seems obvious, and yet often isn’t in practice! Hence, managing for managing’s sake…

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Dina Bass and Mark Gurman:

Microsoft’s hardware team is cautiously optimistic. The new products “are loved,” Panay says. But “I say that to you humbly. Remember I am also the person who went through the writedown. I am also the person who stood on stage and launched Surface RT.”

I remember that. Anyway, count me in with both Ben Thompson and John Gruber, the Microsoft hardware seems very nice at this point. The problem now is that it’s running Windows. You can’t decouple the two when judging these products. Microsoft has only solved 1/2 of the equation…

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Nesclassic3 760x380

Kyle Orland:

The robust success of the NES Classic Edition really does seem to have caught Nintendo by surprise. “We had originally planned for this to be a product for last holiday,” Fils-Aime told Time. “We just didn’t anticipate how incredible the response would be. Once we saw that response, we added shipments and extended the product for as long as we could to meet more of that consumer demand.”

Fils-Aime said something similar in a March interview with Gamespot, where he admitted to a “market disconnect” between the planned supplies and the apparent demand. That was driven by “more active gamer[s]” that flocked to the system in addition to the expected purchasers: “30–40 years old, who grew up playing NES as a kid, 10 years old or so but had stepped away from the gaming category.”

I hate to keep harping on this. Actually, no, I don’t. How the fuck did this take Nintendo by surprise? If I, someone who does not work for Nintendo, can lay out years in advance basically the exact product Nintendo should make to find success again, those in the know should, well, know.

And if they don’t, they should be fired. It’s that simple.

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La fi ct summer box office 20170505?1494353883

Ryan Faughnder:

The upcoming “Transformers: The Last Knight” — which incorporates the legend of King Arthur into its mythology — originated from a gathering of writers on the Paramount lot to hatch ideas for an expanded cinematic universe based on the Hasbro toys. Paramount and director Michael Bay have touted the new camera rigs Bay used to film the movie in Imax 3-D.

I mean, has there ever been a more contrived film? Even more amazing is the awful timing: another, actual King Arthur movie is coming out this summer as well. This just about sums it up:

“Man, this is depressing,” one prominent producer, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect studio relationships, said of the summer lineup. “It is just entirely sequels and franchises, and something’s got to give.”

Quickish Hits

Hate all you want, but I love Chihuly. Especially outdoor Chihuly. Great title too.

Great post by Fred Wilson in terms of what type of work background makes for a great VC. Shocking: there isn’t an easy one-size-fits-all answer, even though narratives to the contrary pop up from time-to-time.

The trailer for Blade Runner 2049 looks fucking amazing. I was cautiously optimistic. Now I think I’m more excited for this than the new Star Wars.

(First published on 5/9/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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