Cold Takes

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

Perhaps the last newsletter of the year as I’ll soon be off to Southern California then Mexico City to close out 2016. But we’ll see, there’s still a lot of stuff to link to — been going through my year’s worth of Pocket saves like a madman.

Thanks to everyone who subscribed to — and read! — this little experiment of mine. I wasn’t able to be nearly as consistent as I would have liked, but I did enjoy using this for a test ground for several things. And I really enjoyed the direct interaction. I’m not yet sure what 2017 will hold for me, content-wise (beyond my always-standing goal of writing more), but you can be sure I’ll be thinking a lot about it over the next week.

Happy holidays and happy new year to everyone.

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Voice Is the Next Big Platform

Great take by Jessi Hempel on how Amazon nailed a use-case everyone was either looking past or coming at just slightly off. This will probably be one of the key battlegrounds in 2017, I imagine.

Apple AirPods: More than just Headphones

Speaking of vocal computing, here’s Ben Bajarin on the AirPods:

Creating the Siri experience to be more than just voice-first but voice-only will be an important exercise. I strongly believe that, when voice exists on a computer with a screen, it will never be the primary interaction input with that screen. Take the screen away and things start to get really interesting. This is when new behaviors and new interactions with computers take place and it’s what happens when you start to integrate the Amazon Echo or Google Home into your life as both are voice-first experiences.

Exactly. This has been the “problem” with Siri to date (versus something like Alexa). And it’s why Apple is undoubtedly going to do an Alexa-like device. And why Google has with Home. Etc.

Most complaints about the AirPods seem to focus around the notion that while they push Siri at you more so than any other Apple product, Siri still requires you to look at a screen for a lot of the information she serves up. The screen should be a ‘nice-to-have’ for these products (and the rumors have Amazon working on an Alexa with a screen), but the atomic unit of feedback for vocal computing needs to be audio.

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‘League of Legends’ E-Sports Contests Lure Newest Fan: Major League Baseball

Sarah Needleman:

The agreement, which was announced Friday, calls for MLB’s BAMTech to pay a minimum $300 million through 2023 to Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s Riot Games for the exclusive rights to stream “League of Legends” competitions.

Fascinating. E-Sports are now getting deals similar to what old school sports have gotten. You have to wonder if these rights will be viewed as insanely cheap in 6 years or is this industry moving and shifting too fast…

After ‘The Process’

Great interview of Sam Hinkie — former GM of the 76ers and fascinating guy — by Chris Ballard. Couple takeaways:

“I’m superkeen on that topic,” he says, which is not surprising. Hinkie is superkeen on a lot of topics. This is a man who listens to books on 3X speed on Audible and curates his Pocket account the way some men once curated album collections, because if you really want to understand something there’s no better way than to spend six hours reading a book someone spent five years researching (density of information!). He espouses a growth mind-set and the ability to be a lifelong learner.

As someone who both listens to things (books, podcast, etc) at fast speeds (2.5x for me) and curates Pocket like no other — except maybe Hinkie? — this obviously resonates with me. Later, in the same vein:

Over time, Hinkie’s worldview tends to rub off. To spend time around him is to begin Pocket-ing assiduously (aspiring to an “asynchronous life”), considering one’s email consumption, and thinking further ahead than, say, two weeks (As a former Sixers colleague puts it: “I was always talking about how we needed to walk before we could run, and Sam was focused on building a better bicycle”).

Not sure Pocket could buy better press.

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The Super Mario Run App Store Reviews

Sarah Perez:

Pokémon Go, step aside. In the first 24 hours, Nintendo’s Super Mario Run has beaten the record-breaking Pokémon game in terms of day one downloads. According to data from Apptopia, Super Mario Run saw 2,850,000 downloads in its first day on the App Store, compared with the 900,000 Pokémon Go had pulled in when it was first launched.

The official number of downloads is now past 40 million in 4 days, which is incredible. Though not as incredible as the reviews, which are ridiculous.

Awful on-boarding and bad menus aside, it’s a great game. It feels like a Nintendo game. But people can’t seem to wrap their heads around the price to unlock the full game — $9.99. Not only is this a fraction of what we all used to pay for video games, it’s less than what we pay for most things these days. And it’s even a lot less than what people pay for a lot of popular games — they just do so in tiny $0.99 increments, hundreds of times.

This is why we can’t have nice things on the App Store.

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Nintendo Presents Coal: Classic Edition for Your Holiday Stocking

Speaking of ridiculous, here’s Brian Heater on the NES: Classic Edition:

According to the industry tracking analyst group, Nintendo move 196,000 units between the console’s launch on November 11 and the end of the month — a number that comes as year-over-year hardware spending dropped 35-percent. Of course, the retro system’s $50 price tag doesn’t leave nearly the same dent at full-fledge next gen consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, both of which saw a decline.

Nintendo badly — badly — dropped the ball with regard to the holiday shopping season and this product. At that price point, this was the perfect holiday gift. Instead, many folks are forking out 5x or more to get a used version. Giant lump of coal from Nintendo this year.

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One Infinite Loophole

In the 1994 film version of Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, Jack Ryan is on the phone with President Bennett to let him know that while they were able to locate the money seized from a drug…

(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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