Cold Takes

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more about it here.)

Alright, I slept on it. I’m still excited about the Nintendo Switch. Yes, there’s a lot for Nintendo to screw up here — and god knows, they’ll try. But it sure seems like they’ve looked at a lot of what led to the complete and utter failure of the Wii U and taken it to heart.

I’m not sure that $199 wouldn’t be a better price point here, but it’s 2017, we’re paying like $600 for our phones. And, of course, I’d like to hear more about their plans for “retro” gaming. But maybe we’ll hear more about “virtual console” plans down the road. Or maybe that genre really should be more of a stand-alone thing going forward à la NES Classic Edition…

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have more to say this weekend in the form of 500ish Words. Especially since I have the stigma of being a Nintendo bear. But overall, everything showed off last night strikes me as exactly what the doctor (Mario — sorry) ordered for what has ailed Nintendo.

5ish Links

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Apple Sets Its Sights on Hollywood…

Ben Fritz, Tripp Mickle, and Hannah Karp:

Apple Inc. is planning to build a significant new business in original television shows and movies, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could make it a bigger player in Hollywood and offset slowing sales of iPhones and iPads.

These people said the programming would be available to subscribers of Apple’s $10-a-month streaming-music service, which has struggled to catch up to the larger Spotify AB. Apple Music already includes a limited number of documentary-style segments on musicians, but nothing like the premium programming it is now seeking.

The framing of this being a part of the play to continue the assault on Spotify is interesting. Doesn’t it feel like it’s a part of Apple’s would-be version of Amazon Prime though? While they’re undoubtedly not getting into the selling and shipping of general goods, a big part of Prime is now the content side… What if there’s eventually an “Apple Prime” service that includes Apple Music, Apple Movies, Apple Television, etc…

Of course, if this is the intention, given how late Apple is to this game, I wonder if they just shouldn’t buy Netflix… Just as they got Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre, Trent Reznor, and the like with the Beats buy, they’d get Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos here to build out their offerings…

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Tony Fadell tells us the story of the iPod-based iPhone prototype

Speaking of Apple, Tony Fadell spoke with Nilay Patel to walk him through the early iPhone prototype software — which looks a lot like iPod software — recently uncovered…

Let’s back up a little bit. The first thing was, we wanted to make an iPod Video product work better. So let’s put a big screen on an iPod, remove the wheel, and make the wheel virtual, so you can look at widescreen videos and pictures. Because the clickwheel was getting in the way, and we wanted to not make the device bigger, but we wanted to just add a bigger screen, we wanted to try to figure out. So that’s the virtual wheel, that was another offshoot that we tried.

I recall many years ago dreaming of a widescreen “iPod Video” for movies. Fun to hear Apple was indeed thinking about doing it. Of course, I’ll take the iPhone instead :)

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CEO of Sonos Steps Down

Sonos has always been one of those companies that does fantastic hardware and then nearly ruins it with awful, cumbersome, buggy software.

Meanwhile, this level of transparency from departing CEO John MacFarlane is refreshing:

“I fell into that trap where I’ve been watching voice recognition for years,” Mr. MacFarlane said. “I tried Echo in the beginning and wrote it off. I had too many distractions at that time. I wasn’t playing at the level I should have been playing at in all frankness.”

Yeah, Sonos could have owned this space. Now I imagine someone ends up owning them…

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What Disney’s city of the future, built to look like the past, says about the present

The Economist revisits Celebration, Florida — the throw-back town created by Disney — yes, Disney — some 20 years ago:

Judged as an attempt to recreate a quasi-mythical past, things did not go so smoothly. Part of Celebration’s appeal was that it would offer a public school with a private education. “What was promised was a revolution in education,” says Lawrence Haber, whose family was the first to move into Celebration, on June 18th 1996. Disney gathered experts from Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities, among others, to design the curriculum. There would be no grades. Classes would be mixed, with children of different age groups studying together. It proved a disaster. Kids slacked off. Without test scores, parents were unable to track their children’s progress. Arguments and fist-fights broke out between parents. The school eventually separated into two more conventional public schools. Mr Haber says he might not have moved to Celebration were it not for the school. Many early settlers felt the same way. Some left.


Yet the cinema, a towering faux-art-deco edifice designed by César Pelli has been closed for several years. Locals complained that the downtown lacked basic necessities such as a hardware store or a hairdresser. The small town-centre grocery store shut too, replaced by a big-box supermarket by the highway. The downtown area, which was sold by Disney in 2004, is in poor repair. One block of flats is being entirely renovated, another is held up by wooden support columns, a third is covered with tarpaulin to prevent leaks. Residents of the downtown condominiums complain that they face huge extra fees for repairs despite having paid for maintenance. A lawsuit is in the works.

I’m reminded of that scene from The Matrix: Reloaded where The Architect explains the history of the matrix to Neo:

The first matrix I designed was quite naturally perfect, it was a work of art, flawless, sublime. A triumph equaled only by its monumental failure. The inevitability of its doom is as apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every human being, thus I redesigned it based on your history to more accurately reflect the varying grotesqueries of your nature.

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Up and Then Down

A fun old one from 2008 by Nick Paumgarten:

People tend to find it unnerving to ride in an elevator with no buttons; they feel as if they had been kidnapped by a Bond villain. Helplessness may exacerbate claustrophobia. In the old system — board elevator, press button — you have an illusion of control; elevator manufacturers have sought to trick the passengers into thinking they’re driving the conveyance. In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works.

Never knew that! Therefore, their plan works! (via @msquinn)

500ish Words

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A Breath of Fresh AirPods

My love letter to the AirPods. Yes, they’re that good.

(Originally published on Cold Takes, 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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